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Pentagon report to show significant drop in unwanted sexual contact in military

Written by on May 16, 2024

In this 2011 file photo, female U.S. Marines are shown marching. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) — Soon to be released Pentagon figures will show a significant almost 19% reduction in the number of service members who say they have experienced some type of unwanted sexual contact over the previous survey conducted two years ago, according to a U.S. official.

There was also a drop in the number of sexual assault reports involving service members filed last year, according to the official.

Every two years, the U.S. military carries out an anonymous survey that Defense Department officials believe is a better indicator of the prevalence of sexual assault in the military than the annual reports where victims may be reluctant to step forward to report a sexual assault.

This year’s survey indicated close to 29,000 reported unwanted sexual contacts, an almost 19% reduction from the 35,800 reported in the survey carried out in 2021.

The Pentagon survey defines unwanted sexual contact as ranging from unwanted touching to rape.

The reduction was the first in over eight years and drew comments from President Joe Biden as he met with senior U.S. military leaders at the White House on Wednesday.

“I’m proud that for the first time in nearly a decade, rates of sexual assault and harassment … within active duty forces are down — are down because of your leadership,” he said.

Separately, the number of reports of sexual assault also decreased in 2023 to 8,515 from 8,942 in 2022, according to the official.

The Pentagon has increased the support and care it provides to victims of sexual assault and has raised the awareness encouraging victims to step forward with what is often underreported.

But numbers of incidents and reports have gone up in years that those efforts have increased, so it’s unclear what might be behind the new drop in numbers.

The previous survey of sexual prevalence in the military showed a dramatic increase from 20,000 to 35,800, but defense officials noted that was because of changes in how the survey was carried out.

That made full comparisons between those two surveys impossible until the upcoming release of this year’s survey.

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