Illustration by Ly Ngo.
First, the bad news: The Associated Press reports that documented cases of sexual assault in the U.S. military rose by over 50% in the fiscal year, which ended in September.
Now, the iffy-yet-justified "good" news: Jill Loftus, director of the Navy's sexual assault prevention program, suggests that the number of actual assaults hasn't increased. Instead, more people are now reporting on what was previously kept silent.
"[We] are not seeing a perception that the number of incidents are going up," Loftus told the AP. "More likely, we have people who understand what sexual assault is." In short, more people now feel comfortable to report such cases.
In the past fiscal year, the Air Force had the lowest rate of reported assaults, with a 45% increase. The Marines saw an increase of 86%; the Navy a 46% increase; and the Army a 50% increase. Of course, the more than 5,000 reported assaults is really not good news at all — they've both embarrassed the military and enraged Congress, prompting reforms in how such cases are handled. In addition, military services continue to exchange information on prevention programs, training, and oversight aimed at further curbing those numbers.
"We're still not where we want things to be," said one Pentagon official to the AP. "But we think all of this is having an effect." (AP)