A claim by two fellows at the Center for American Progress that 52 military women are raped each day is “inaccurate,” the Pentagon says.
The claim was made penned by Lawrence Korb and Jessica Arons of the Center for American Progress in a POLITICO column.
“Military women do not have coverage for abortion care, including in cases of rape and incest,” they wrote. “Yet 52 military women are raped every day, according to the Pentagon, and hundreds of female soldiers are at risk of becoming pregnant from rape each year.”
One of the authors told Politic365 in a phone interview how he arrived at that number.
“Because of underreporting they estimate that there were about 19,000,” Korb said. “So that’s how we figured it out,” he continued, adding that the term used in the Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military he was referring to was sexual assault.
“That is inaccurate,” said Cynthia Smith, a DoD spokeswoman.
“He divided 19,000 into 365 and that’s how he got to 52,” she explained. “The problem with that is the 19,000 does not mean rape. So it misrepresents what the 19,000 is. The 19,000 is any incidence of unwanted sexual contact, not rape.”
There are seven different categories that the DoD uses to differentiate between the different kinds of sexual assault – including rape.
“The DoD uses the term “sexual assault” to refer to a range of crimes, including rape, aggravated sexual assault, nonconsensual sodomy, aggravated sexual contact, abusive sexual contact, wrongful sexual contact, and attempts to commit these offenses, as defined by the UCMJ,” according to the Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.
“Don’t get me wrong. We do admit we have a problem we take it seriously. We are working to do everything we can to change the culture here and to ensure when unfortunately if a service member is raped they do get the help they need,” Smith said, adding that the DoD provides rape kits and gets victims to top-tier medical healthcare providers, and do have an option to report by way of “restrictive reports” or “unrestricted reports.”
“The restricted report lets the victim go to the hospital and get the care that they need,” she said. “And then they have a year to change the report. No one is told,” she explained, including the commander and the unit. Additionally, the victim also does not pursue charges.
An unrestricted report means that the victim goes to the hospital, the commander is notified that an investigation begins immediately, the DoD spokesperson explained.
“In the context of the DoD statistics that follow, an Unrestricted Report of sexual assault is an allegation by one or more victims against one or more suspects (referred to in the Department as “subjects of investigation” or “subjects”) that will be referred to and investigated by an MCIO (Army CID, NCIS, or AFOSI),” the Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military explained.
“When I called them they said the 19,000 number is just an estimate. They have no idea. That’s at least and I said ‘how many of the sexual assaults are rapes’ and they said they don’t know,” Korb said commenting on the Pentagon’s response to his claims.
He continued: “‘I said ‘could they all be rape,’ and they said ‘yeah.’ And that’s part of the problem because a lot of these aren’t even reported. They’re just making this number up. They’re saying it’s a big problem. These are how many reported. This is what we estimate but we’re not sure.”
The DoD has recently taken a number of steps to address sexual assault.
In September, the DoD Secretary Leon Panetta revamped efforts to confront sexual assault crimes by instituting “higher standards for sexual assault prevention and response (SAPR) training for pre-command training,” a DoD press release read.
“Second, Secretary Panetta has directed that each military department conduct a comprehensive assessment of all initial military training of enlisted personnel and commissioned officers to ensure a safe and secure environment,” it continued.
Secretary Panetta has also established a “Special Victims Unit” in all of the U.S. Armed Services and required that sexual assault policies be explained to military men and women within 14 days of being on active duty.