Official: Reports of sex assault in US Navy increase

Posted on September 12, 2013


Al Jazeera

The number of sexual assaults reported within the Navy has grown by about 50 percent in the past year, which Navy officials said Wednesday is a sign that a growing number of sailors feel more comfortable reporting an assault and believe something will be done about it — a prior source of concern for victims, advocates say.

The Navy said it is on track to end the 2013 fiscal year later this month with about 1,100 reports of sexual assault. A total of 726 were reported in the previous fiscal year.

Rear Adm. Sean Buck, the Navy’s top sexual assault prevention and response officer, told reporters at an annual training conference that the increase was something Navy officials had expected as they ramped up efforts to let sailors know that sexual assaults are being treated seriously.

However, Brian Purchia, spokesman for Protect Our Defenders (POD), an organization that provides support to military sexual assault survivors, was skeptical about the significance of the Navy’s numbers. The reports go against a trend of endemic, unreported sexual assault in the military.

“We have no idea how these cases are being reported. Ultimately the commander still has the right to dismiss the charge or not even investigate,” he told Al Jazeera, saying there is a need for “an independent justice system” that would remove the authority to prosecute alleged perpetrators from the victim’s chain of command.

Defense Department report released in May estimated that across all military branches, 26,000 service members had been sexually assaulted in the previous year. At the same time, only 2,949 sexual assaults were officially reported, apparently indicating a fear of retaliation.