Pentagon Underreported Sexual Assaults by not Counting Attacks on Civilian Women and Non-Military Spouses

Wednesday, May 06, 2015
(AP Graphic)

A U.S. Senator has accused the Pentagon of covering up some sexual assaults by underreporting cases involving civilian women living near bases and the non-military spouses of service members.


Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), a frequent critic of the military’s failure to adequately report and punish those who commit sexual assault, has issued a report that concluded the Department of Defense’s annual totals for these cases have been seriously underreported by leaving out civilian spouses of military personnel and those who live near military bases.


Her staff examined sexual assaults in 2013 at the military’s four largest bases: the Army’s Fort Hood in Texas, Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton in California, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.


The findings showed that 32% of reports of sexual assault were submitted by civilian women, who were undercounted by the Pentagon. The percentage was based on 33 alleged assaults by service members on civilian women out of 107 total incidents during 2013. The report also says that 21% of reports were submitted by civilian military spouses, who also weren’t sufficiently counted (22 alleged assaults by service members on their civilian spouses out of 107).


Gillibrand’s report says that by applying the higher rate from these four bases, the total number of sexual assault survivors nationwide could more than double, from 20,000 to 42,000.


Gillibrand had trouble getting even those numbers from the Defense Department. She sought four years’ worth of data from the bases, the largest in each service. After nearly a year of stonewalling, the military provided redacted data from 2013. “This refusal from the DoD to provide basic information pertaining to sexual violence and military justice to the former Personnel Subcommittee chair with oversight duties calls into question the Department’s commitment to transparency and getting to the root of the problem,” according to Gillibrand’s report.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Snapshot Review of Sexual Assault Report Files at the Four Largest U.S. Military Bases in 2013 (Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand) (pdf)

Army Major who Oversaw Sexual Assault Cases Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Rape (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Congress Passes Bill to Reform Military Policy on Sexual Assault and Rape (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Reports of Military Sexual Assaults up by 50% as Top Navy Nominee Raises Ire (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Chief of Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention Unit Charged with Sexual Assault (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

Air Force Version of Punishing Sexual Assault: No Promotion (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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