By Debbie Gregory.
According to data obtained and originally reported by the Associated Press, there were more than 5,000 reports of sexual misconduct filed within the ranks of the U.S. military during the fiscal year 2013. This number is considerably higher than the 3,374 reports filed in FY2012.
Included in the military-wide reports are increases in every military branch. The Marine Corps had the largest increase, with 86% more reports than the previous year. The Army was next with a 50% increase, followed by the Navy with 46% more, and the Air Force with a 45% jump.
Many military officials agree that these numbers are unacceptable, and need to come down. But they also contend that the higher numbers do not necessarily mean that there were more incidents of sexual assaults; just that more of the incidents that happened were reported.
Prior to the release of these statistics, military brass from every branch had already launched new programs intended to increase accountability when it comes to instances of sexual misconduct. Some programs are meant to encourage members who witness incidents of sexual misconduct to intervene and stop them as they are happening. And other programs are designed to promote vigilance among the senior enlisted to catch inappropriate and illegal behaviors. And, of course, the military has implemented programs that highly encourage victims to report abuse and assault.
For years, the military has struggled in their efforts to convince victims of sexual harassment and assault to report all incidents. Victims who did come forward complained that they were initially afraid to report assaults to ranking officers, or that their initial complaints were ignored. Some could consider the increase in reports as a positive sign that the military might finally be ready to effect the appropriate changes necessary to eradicate sexual misconduct from within its ranks.
President Obama does not share this optimism. The president recently delivered an ultimatum to military brass, setting a deadline of December 1, 2014, to see clear improvement in military sexual misconduct numbers. If the goal is not met, President Obama will initiate further reforms, imposing rules on the military that they might not like.