WASHINGTON (AP) — Reports of sexual assaults by members of the military rose 50 percent after the Pentagon began a vigorous campaign to get more victims to come forward, prompting defense officials to order a greater focus on prevention programs, including plans to review alcohol sales and policies.
But officials are still unhappy with the low number of male victims who reported sexual assault, and they say there will be a greater emphasis in the months ahead on getting men to come forward and seek help. Final data obtained by The Associated Press show that about 14 percent of the reports filed last year involved male victims.
Defense officials said Wednesday that encouraging more men to report sexual assaults is a difficult challenge because male victims often worry that it will make people think they are weak and trigger questions about their sexual orientation. In most cases, however, sexual orientation has nothing to do with the assault and it's more an issue of power or abuse.
"There is still a misperception that this is a women's issue and women's crime," said Nate Galbreath, the senior executive adviser for the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention office. "It's disheartening that we have such a differential between the genders and how they are choosing to report."
The Pentagon planned to release its report Thursday. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was expected to call on the military services to step up efforts to encourage troops to intervene in assault situations and work with military bases and local communities to better train bar workers and promote more responsible alcohol sales. According to officials, alcohol was a factor in as many as two-thirds of the cases.
Under the military's definition, a sexual assault can be anything from unwanted sexual contact, such as inappropriate touching or grabbing, to sodomy and rape.