Estimated sex crimes against U.S. military personnel around the world have dropped by more than half since 2006, according to data and statements released Friday by the Department of Defense in response to a request by the Belleville News-Democrat.
The data, which was made public Friday, resulted from a Freedom of Information request last year to the DOD by the BND.
The charts show that in 2006, military experts estimated there were 34,000 victims of sexual assault; 20,000 were men and 14,000 were women among units of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines in the United States and overseas. Only 7 percent of those estimated sexual assaults were reported.
But a decade later in 2016, estimated sexual assaults were reduced dramatically to an estimated 14,900, this time with more women listed as victims than men. The data for the last fiscal year showed 8,600 women, and 6,000 men. Thirty-two percent of those estimated assaults were reported to the military.
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“There were huge education programs in our department and they really started to take hold,” said Dr. Nate Galbreath, former director of the DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office and a licensed clinical psychologist. Galbreath noted the overall drop in the number of estimated sexual assaults and the more than 300 percent drop in male personnel reporting sexual crimes.
At Scott Air Force Base, the number of military personnel who sought treatment after reporting a sexual crime was relatively low compared to other facilities of its size — a total of 57 from fiscal years 2013 through 2016.
57 military personnel at Scott Air Force Base sought treatment after reporting a sex crime, from fiscal 2013 through 2016.
In all of these cases, the information collected by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office did not identify alleged perpetrators of a sex crime or where the alleged crime occurred, but rather where those military personnel who made the accusations elected to report them and obtain treatment, Galbreath said.
The department is near completion of a “risk profile” study that would identify particular U.S. military bases that have proportionately high numbers of sex crimes, Galbreath said. Under the military definition, “sexual assault” includes penetration crimes or rape as well as sexual abuse crimes that can include groping.
Galbreath, now a consultant for the military, said if a sex crime occurs before the victim enters service, it still can be reported under one of two categories: “unrestricted,” which means military and or local police and command personnel would become involved, and “restricted,” which means the victim could seek treatment without being required to notify police and could expect that the matter would remain confidential. The crime could have occurred at a different location than where the victim sought treatment.
There’s a fundamentally different approach to meeting the problem of sexual assault of military women as opposed to military men, Galbreath said. With women, it is usually an acquaintance situation and often occurs off-duty. With men, it is often “a hazing or bullying situation” that usually occurs during duty hours and often in barracks, Galbreath said.
When women military personnel become victims of a sex crime, it is usually an acquaintance situation and often occurs off-duty, according to experts, while with men, it is often “a hazing or bullying situation” that usually occurs during duty hours and often in barracks.
In 2013, the military began allowing victims of sexual assault to access medical attention, counseling and legal help without notifying their command and police. Those are the restricted reports. If victims seek police involvement they can report the allegation under the unrestricted category.
If a victim opts not to report to police and later changes his or her mind, the victim can still switch to the unrestricted procedure and go to police. Galbreath said about 20 percent of those who only ask for services later report the assault to police. A victim can also ask for an expedited transfer to another base to avoid contact with the assailant.
Under current procedure, victims can be assigned a military lawyer to protect their rights and ensure that they receive proper treatment.
Of the 57 cases where personnel reported their sex-crime accusations at Scott Air Force Base, 16 complaints were listed as unrestricted, meaning they were reported to police.
16 of the accusations reported at Scott Air Force Base were unrestricted, meaning they were reported to police.
Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colo., is comparable in size to Scott. During the same time frame, 69 sexual assaults were reported there. Of those, 18 chose to have their complaints pursued in the unrestricted manner, or reported to local police.
Two area military bases had much higher numbers of reports, but the installations had much larger populations.
Fort Leonard Wood Army Base in central Missouri received 459 reports from 2013 through 2016. Of those, 76 personnel who made accusations opted not to have their assault reported to police or their command.
Great Lakes Naval Station near Chicago received 356 reports during the same four-year time period. Of those, 248 were reported to command and police. The other 108 opted for some combination of counseling, medical attention or advocacy.
Overseas, the highest number of sexual assaults reported were in Afghanistan from 2013 to 2016, with 295. Of those, unrestricted reports numbered 76.