Sexual assault cases in the military increased by 40% in 2018, reveals Pentagon report

The real numbers may be way higher than those reported as only one in three service members end up reporting their sexual assault

                            Sexual assault cases in the military increased by 40% in 2018, reveals Pentagon report
(Source : Getty Images)

At least 20,500 service members experienced some form of "contact or penetrative sexual assault" in 2018, according to a biennial anonymous survey released by the Department of Defense on Thursday, May 2. The number is an alarming jump from the report generated in 2016 when around 14,900 people were alleged victims of sexual assault.

It was found that active-duty women in the military bore the brunt of sexual assault at a much higher rate than their male counterparts. The definition of sexual assault in the report encompasses a "range of crimes" including rape and forcible sodomy. The 2018 figures show that about 6.2 percent of women reported being sexually assaulted as compared to the 4.3 percent indicated in the previous 2016 report. Meanwhile, the percentage of men who reported being assaulted remained the same at 0.7 percent, stated a CBS News report.

Active-duty women in the military bore the brunt of sexual assault at a much higher rate than their male counterparts (Getty Images)

The vast majority of sexual assault cases constitute service members between the ages of 17 and 24 who work, train, or live in close proximity to one another, according to the survey. Women service members reported their offenders were most often military men who they considered to be a friend or acquaintance. At the same time, over 50 percent of male victims reported their offenders were male, 30 percent indicated their attackers were female, and 13 percent said their offenders were a mix of men and women working together.

However, the real numbers of sexual assault cases may be much higher than those reported. According to the outlet, only one in three service members report their experiences to a Defense Department authority. However, more recruits are reporting their assaults than in years past, after only 14 service members reported being assaulted in 2006.

In response to the survey, the DOD wrote on Thursday: "Defense Department senior leaders look at the Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military as a call to arms against this crime." According to the response, incidents of sexual assault against young women have significantly increased since 2012.

Soldiers, officers, and civilian employees attend the commencement ceremony for the U.S. Army's annual observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in the Pentagon Center Courtyard March 31, 2015, in Arlington, Virginia. (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan also issued a memorandum on actions to address the growing problem within military ranks. "To put it bluntly, we are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other," wrote Shanahan. "This is unacceptable. We cannot shrink from facing the challenge head-on. We must, and will, do better."

Martha McSally (R-AZ), a Republican senator from Arizona's 2nd district, revealed in March that she had been raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force. Commenting on the latest report, McSally said, "Sexual assault whether in the military or in communities across our country is abhorrent and intolerable. The numbers released today confirm that that the time is now to impart lasting change within the military and that it is more urgent than ever."

This is not the only Pentagon report showing an increase in sexual assault in the forces. A report released late in January showed that sexual assault had spiked by 50 percent at three of the most prestigious US military academies. An anonymous survey found that at least 747 West Point and Air Force Academy cadets and Naval Academy midshipmen were sexually assaulted in the past school year, another alarming jump from 507 cases that were reported in 2016.