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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

May-19-04

Report: Sexual Assault of Women in US Military Major Problem

The Department of Defense (DOD) released a report last week that found 112 cases of sexual assault of women in the military by their male counterparts over the past 18 months in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. The report stated that military authorities investigated nearly 2,120 alleged cases of sexual assault within the general military population in 2002 and 2003. David Chu, the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel, concurred with the report that these figures are a small fraction of the number of assaults that actually occur, because soldiers are often afraid or unwilling to come forward, according to theAssociated Press.

The DOD-commissioned report was completed in late April by the Sexual Assault Task Force. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered the investigation in February after a series of reports were issued regarding the sexual assault of female soldiers by their male counterparts, according to the New York Times. Female soldiers also allege they were often confronted with insensitive and unsupportive commanders after reporting the assaults, reports the Times.

The eight-member task-force panel found that the military's existing policies don't provide basic medical care, such as testing for HIV, rape evidence kits, and counseling for victims, according to Salon. The report also faults military policy for failing to create an environment that encourages victims to report the crime confidentially, effectively prevent and respond to allegations of sexual assault, and investigate and prosecute cases in a timely and effective manner.

Members of Congress, women’s rights groups, and victims’ advocacy groups have criticized the report’s failure to propose concrete recommendations to remedy the problems, according to the Times. Calling the report "as clear-cut about the seriousness of the problem as its 18 predecessors over the past 16 years," Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said, "Unfortunately, the recommendations to combat sex abuse were mostly vague and not entirely immediate … I’m hoping that the Pentagon will not only undertake an immediate plan to act on this report, but it will go above and beyond these recommendations to implement some of the solutions that have been proposed in the past." Representatives Maloney, Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Hilda Solis (D-CA), and 83 of their colleagues have requested a meeting with Rumsfeld to discuss the military’s plan to combat the sexual assault of female service members.

LEARN MORE Read the full text of the DOD report

Media Resources: New York Times 5/13/04; Salon.com 5/13/04; Department of Defense report April 04; Rep. Maloney press release 5/13/04


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