After the Department of Defense reported a significant increase in sexual assault in the military, estimated at nearly 26,000 incidents in 2012, and after military leaders decried the epidemic as a "crisis," The Weekly Standard responded to Congress' preventative actions with sexual assault trutherism, denying the fact that a sexual assault crisis exists within the military.
Senators Work To Combat Epidemic Of Military Sexual Assault
Politico: Bipartisan Effort In Senate Seeks To Remove Military's Chain Of Command From Reporting Of Sexual Assaults. A bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), including Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), is attempting to change how the military's chain of command structure is responsible for handling reports of sexual assaults, in an effort to stop retaliation faced by those who report their assaults. [Politico, 7/16/13]
The Weekly Standard Denies Existence Of Sexual Assault Crisis In The Military
Editor Bill Kristol: There Is A "Pseudo-Crisis Of Military Sexual Assault." Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol wrote in a July 16 blog post that the Senate's bipartisan effort to change the military's chain of command for reporting sexual assaults will "[weaken] the military." He detailed, "Sens. Paul and Cruz are signing on to Sen. Gillibrand's proposal to undermine the military's chain of command on behalf of the pseudo-crisis of military sexual assault." [The Weekly Standard, 7/16/13]
July 8 Article: "There Is No Sexual Assault Crisis" In The Military. In an article for The Weekly Standard magazine titled "Harassing the Military," law professor Gail Heriot claimed that in the military, "there is no sexual assault crisis," because there may be a greater prevalence of sexual assaults within other communities. She went on to cite the possibility that the number of reported sexual assault incidents is simply wrong as evidence that the growing epidemic is a myth:
By now, almost everyone knows the lurid truth about the military--or they think they do. Last month, after a 2012 survey showed that sexual assault against servicewomen had risen dramatically in the last few years, the media went into overdrive. The Washington Post called it an "epidemic." The New York Times blamed the rise on "the military's entrenched culture of sexual violence."
No wonder Congress has since been feverishly pursuing legislation to deal with this seeming national scandal--from a top-to-bottom overhaul of the military's criminal justice system proposed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to mandatory minimum sentences for sexual assault backed by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio).
There is just one problem: Precious little of this story has any basis in fact. Contrary to what many assume, there is no evidence that the military has a higher rate of sexual assault than, say, colleges and universities. Indeed, what paltry evidence there is suggests the opposite. Congress needs to stop, take a deep breath, and avoid adopting legislative remedies it will regret once the crisis atmosphere dies down.
Any institution home to a disproportionate number of young adults will likely have higher than average rates of what the military delicately calls "unwanted sexual contact." That doesn't excuse the behavior--which can range from a provocative pat on the bottom to forcible rape--but it does provide much-needed perspective. [The Weekly Standard, 7/8/13]
Online Editor Daniel Harper Promoted Marine Corps Times Post Suggesting Sexual Assault Problem "Exaggerated." On July 16, Weekly Standard online editor Daniel Harper republished, without commentary, a section of a post from the Marine Corps Times in which a U.S. Marine Corps officer suggested the scope of the military's sexual assault problem is exaggerated. [The Weekly Standard, 7/16/13]
But Sexual Assaults In The Military Are Soaring, Up To 26,000 Incidents Estimated In 2012
Department Of Defense: Reported Sexual Assaults Increased Six Percent In 2012, Up To Nearly 3,400 Reported Incidents. According to the Department of Defense's (DOD) 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, there were 3,374 reports of sexual assault involving service members in fiscal year 2012. This represents a six percent increase from 2011's total reported sexual assaults, a growth DOD called "significant." [U.S. Department of Defense, Annual Report On Sexual Assault in the Military 2012, 4/15/13]
DOD Estimates Actual Number Of Sexual Assaults In 2012 Around 26,000. The DOD report emphasized that the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported and pointed to the results of a survey conducted every two years that suggested the actual number of sexual assaults in the military is much higher: approximately 26,000 incidents in 2012. This number is up 35 percent from the previous year's estimate. [U.S. Department of Defense, Annual Report On Sexual Assault in the Military 2012, 4/15/13]
DOD: Of Those Who Reported A Sexual Assault, 62 Percent Faced Retaliation As A Result. In a post on military sexual assault and the DOD's report, The Daily Beast highlighted that 62 percent of servicemen and women who reported a sexual assault faced retaliation as a result:
Those statistics documented a modest increase in the number of reported sexual assaults, but an enormous jump in the number of unreported--or anonymous--ones. In other words, they show that the percentage of those who chose to report their assaults dropped by some 30 percent--hardly a sign of confidence in the existing system.
The explanation for that, according to many, is a simple one. The report--which this year clocks in at 1,494 pages--found that 62 percent of victims who did report their assaults faced retaliation as a result.
Stories of retaliation and revictimization are ones that director Kirby Dick and his producer Amy Ziering heard repeatedly as they were making The Invisible War. "Every single person that we spoke to, whether they reported it or not, they were all advised by their peers not to report," Dick says. "Basically you're risking your career to report." [The Daily Beast, 5/13/13]
And Military Leaders Agree: Sexual Assault In The Ranks Is At "Crisis" Levels
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: Increasing Frequency Of Sexual Assault Could "Undermine Our Ability To Carry Out The Mission" Of The Military. During a May 7 press conference, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called sexual assault within the ranks "unacceptable," and called upon leaders to take steps to prevent further abuse. From DOD's American Forces Press Service:
Hagel called sexual assault "a despicable crime" and said it is a serious challenge to the department. "It's a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people and the health, reputation and trust of this institution," he said.
He shifted to the annual report on sexual assault within the military the department delivered to Congress today. "This department may be nearing a stage where the frequency of this crime and the perception that there is tolerance of it could very well undermine our ability to effectively carry out the mission and to recruit and retain the good people we need," he said. "That is unacceptable to me and the leaders of this institution. And it should be unacceptable to everyone associated with the United States military."
Hagel called for a cultural change in the military with respect to sexual assault. He announced initiatives so "every service member is treated with dignity and respect, where all allegations of inappropriate behavior are treated with seriousness, where victims' privacy is protected, where bystanders are motivated to intervene and where offenders know that they will be held accountable by strong and effective systems of justice." [American Forces Press Service, 5/7/13]
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey: Sexual Assault Constitutes "Crisis" In The Military. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited the increase in military sexual assault as a "crisis" and major cause for concern. From the DOD's American Forces Press Service:
"We're losing the confidence of the women who serve that we can solve this problem," Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told reporters as he returned from NATO meetings in Brussels. "That's a crisis."
Dempsey has actively been researching this issue since he became the Army's Training and Doctrine Command chief in 2008. He continued the research as Army chief of staff, and now as chairman.
"I tasked those around me to help me understand what a decade-plus of conflict may have done to the force," he said. "Instinctively, I knew it had to have some effect."
The chairman still cannot articulate what 10 years of war has done to the force, but he does think the increase in sexual assaults, the rise in suicides, and the increase in instances of misconduct and indiscipline are in some way related.
"This is not to make excuses," he said. "We should be better than this. In fact, we have to be better than this." [American Forces Press Service, 5/15/13]
It's Not Just The Weekly Standard: Other Conservative Media Doubt Sexual Assault Crisis
NY Post Columnist: Increase In Military Sexual Assaults Is A "Bogus Epidemic." In a March 31 column for The New York Post, Arthur Herman dismissed the DOD's reported increase in military sexual assaults as a "bogus epidemic," because the survey on sexual assaults included all "unwanted sexual contact," not merely incidents of rape. [The New York Post, 3/31/13 via Media Matters]
WSJ's Taranto: Efforts To Address Military Sexual Assault Are Becoming An "Effort To Criminalize Male Sexuality." Responding to efforts by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to block the promotion of an Air Force commander who granted clemency to an officer found guilty of sexual assault, Wall Street Journal's James Taranto decried actions addressing sexual assaults in the military as a "war on men." Taranto, a member of the Journal's editorial board, wrote in his June 17 op-ed that McCaskill's efforts were part of a "political campaign against sexual assault in the military that shows signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality." [Wall Street Journal, 6/17/13 via Media Matters]
Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus: Reported Epidemic Of Military Sexual Assault May Be Diversion Tactic. Via his Twitter account on May 22, Mickey Kaus, a listed contributor to the right-wing website The Daily Caller, theorized that recent incidents of sexual assaults in the military may be a diversion tactic aimed at steering attention away from the White House:
[Twitter, 5/22/13, via Media Matters]