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Reports of service-related sexual assaults up 26 percent

By Staff | Mar 27, 2009

Given the fear and stigma associated with the crime, sexual assault remains one of our nation’s most under-reported crimes in both the military and civilian community.

In fact, reports of sexual assaults involving service members here in Iraq and also in Afghanistan were up about 26 percent in fiscal 2008. While this does not necessarily mean sexual assaults have gone up, it does mean that reports have gone up. The increase of reports means the military’s policy of getting victims to come forward is making a difference.

Oftentimes, taking the first step, reporting the incident, proves difficult. Of the 6.8 percent of women and 1.8 percent of men who indicated they experienced unwanted sexual contact, 79 percent of women and 78 percent of men chose not to report it.

Whether they had acknowledged their experience as a rape or not, 30 percent of the women identified as rape victims contemplated suicide after the incident, according to one study, and 82 percent said that the experience had permanently changed them.

Historically, sexual assaults go up as troops move. It provides perpetrators some anonymity, meaning that if they feel they are about to go to the front lines, they have nothing to lose or no one will find them. If they or their victim are transitioning back to the States, a report may not be made because they are afraid it will keep them in the combat zone.

Our armed forces have challenged the myths about date rape, by far the most common type of rape in the military and elsewhere.

First, it is not referred to as date rape because it implies rape lite. They quickly shot down the widely held view that (non-stranger) rapes are typically the result of a basically decent young man who, were it not for too much alcohol and too little communication, would never do such a thing.

An average of one in six women and one in 32 men in the United States experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetime. Women ages 16 to 24 experience rape at rates four times higher than the assault rate of all women, making the college (and high school) years the most vulnerable for women.

The bottom line is that sexual assault harms our service members and erodes our military’s mission readiness. Our armed forces are committed to aggressively pursuing increased reporting of sexual assault, prosecuting perpetrators, providing first-class care and preventing this crime before it occurs.

– Tom Maiden lives in Shepherdstown with his wife and four children. When not serving as a “Citizen Sailor”, Tom works part-time teaching insurance & financial planning at Shepherd University and owns a financial planning practice in Shepherdstown.