When it comes to sexual assault in the military, are things getting better?
That depends on who is being asked the question.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) says that they are, noting a recent report on the subject and stating that it shows "sweeping reforms continue to take root."
One of McCaskill's Senate counterparts most assuredly doesn't share that view. In commenting on the same recently released study, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) contends that, "There is no other mission [the military's program to curb sexual assaults] in the world for our military where this much failure would be allowed."
How can the same set of statistics yield such starkly disparate opinions?
What is obviously germane to McCaskill and many other commentators who believe that the military's efforts to reduce sex-based criminal acts are gaining traction is this noted development: Reportedly, incidents of unwanted sexual contact (defined as every conceivable type of sexual offense, ranging from inappropriate touching to overtly violent acts such as rape) have plummeted from about 26,000 in 2012 to approximately 18,900 last year. That is about a 27 percent drop, and it is clearly viewed as a positive outcome and welcome trend by many people who are paying close attention to the subject.
Gillibrand seems wholly unimpressed by the numbers, noting that they equate on average to about 52 new sexual assault cases occurring in the military every day of the year.
Some commentators readily concede more authenticity to the current study than they did with its predecessors, given that it was conducted by independent researchers at the RAND corporation, with the Pentagon simply sponsoring the effort.