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Survey results on military sexual assault bring mixed responses

Recently reported statistics regarding sexual assault in the military are being both applauded and commented upon with marked condemnation.

As with many things in life, the answer one gets depends upon the person being asked.

Last week, an office within the Pentagon released long-awaited survey results on reported sexual assaults and so-called “unwanted sexual contacts.” The report was accompanied by an analysis conducted by the Rand Corporation.

Responsive comments came quickly and revealed a clear divergence in opinion regarding how prevalent sex-based crimes are in the military and how effectively officials are responding to them and taking purposeful steps to curb criminal conduct.

Most centrally, the relevant numbers revealed this mixed bag of conclusions: Although reported assaults across the military branches are up by about eight percent from two years ago, the number of persons saying they were victimized by unwanted sexual conduct is down markedly over the same period, by 27 percent.

In responding to the survey, outgoing U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated that “our efforts to prevent sexual assault are beginning to have an impact.”

Unsurprisingly, that assessment was not universally endorsed. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) called the survey result “a screaming red flag.” Gillibrand has strongly argued for a lesser exercise of power by military commanders in sex-crime cases, with more discretion over such matters being given to independent lawyers.

Hagel concedes that, notwithstanding alleged improvements, unwanted sexual contact continues to be a problem in the armed forces

In referring to a victimless military, he says that, “We’re not there yet but we’ll get there.”

Source: Military.com, “Sexual assault reports increase 8%, Pentagon cites progress,” Richard Sisk, Dec. 4, 2014

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