Sunday, May 3, 2015

Reports on military sexual assaults

On 1 May 2015, various reports became available about the incidence of military related sexual assaults for FY 2014.  I note a significant number of reported assaults involved a civilian complainant.  Here is a link to the main report.  A general takeaway:
According to the 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study, the percentage of active duty women who experienced unwanted sexual contact in the past year declined from an estimated 6.1% in 2012 to an estimated 4.3% in 2014, a statistically significant decrease.11 For active duty men, the estimated prevalence rate of unwanted sexual contact trended downwards from 1.2% in 2012 to 0.9% in 2014.12, 13, 14 Based on these prevalence rates, an estimated 18,900 Service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2014, down from the 26,000 Service member victims estimated in 2012.
In addition, some figures of interest to those dealing with those accused (found mainly in Appendix B);

  • The following information is for those subjects’ cases whose investigations were complete and case disposition results were reported in FY 2014. In FY 2014, 2,625 subjects investigated for sexual assault were primarily under the legal authority of DoD. However, as with the civilian justice system, evidentiary issues may have prevented disciplinary action from being taken against some subjects. In addition, commanders declined to take action on some subjects after a legal review of the matter indicated that the allegations against the accused were unfounded, meaning they were determined to be false or baseless. Command action was not possible in 24% of the cases considered for action by military commanders (Figure S) in FY 2014.
  • For the remaining 76% of cases considered for command action, commanders had sufficient evidence and legal authority to support some form of disciplinary action for a sexual assault offense or other misconduct. Figure S displays command action taken from FY 2009 to FY 2014 and Figure T displays command action in FY 2014 for penetrating versus sexual contact crimes. Since FY 2007, the percentage of subjects who had charges preferred to court-martial has steadily increased and the percentage of subjects for whom command action was not possible has steadily declined.
  • Not all cases preferred to court-martial proceed to trial. In certain circumstances, DoD may approve a resignation or discharge in lieu of court-martial (RILO/DILO). Furthermore, Article 32 (pre-trial) hearings can result in a recommendation to dismiss all or some of the charges. Commanders may use evidence gathered during sexual assault investigations and evidence heard at an Article 32 hearing to impose a nonjudicial punishment (NJP) against subjects. As seen in Figure U, the majority of cases preferred to court-martial, for both penetrating and sexual contact offenses, proceeded to trial.
At the end of Appendix B there is this intriguing statement, perhaps preparing to address the jurisdictional issues forthcoming with Congress.
Each of the Services were directed by the Joint Chiefs to collect 5 to 10 cases where the military justice system was better able to address the misconduct alleged than the involved civilian or foreign justice system. This is not to say that the military justice system is superior to other justice systems, but rather it has the flexibility to address certain types of misconduct that other systems cannot. 
It took a bit of searching, but here is a link to the Report to the President for each Service.
IMHO, some of these cases were ones in which the local prosecutor actually declined to prosecute, for reasons not always clear.  For many, mostly in the Air Force, it appears to be more a situation where the USAF asked for jurisdiction and the local prosecutor ceded it, which may not actually be a case the locals refused to prosecute.

Other reports and information can be found at the Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Office.


  1. Many thanks to Phil Cave for taking the time to do this post.

    The 5-10 sample cases referred to at the end of the post merit close scrutiny because it has been a matter of dispute in the past whether the present command-centric disposition system leads to the prosecution of cases that a civilian prosecutor (and a non-chain-of-command independent military prosecutor) would refuse to pursue. A case in which a pliant DA is only too happy to step aside when an eager SJA offers to prosecute is not probative, in my view, of anything other than the immutable law of human nature that if someone else is willing to do a particular job, those who otherwise would have to do it are content.

    The reported court-martial conviction rates for both penetrative and nonpenetrative sexual assault seem to be lower by a statistically significant margin than for other types of UCMJ offenses.

    1. I agree entirely that cherry-picked examples do not adequately address the issue. We should profitably ask how many cases the local prosecutor took up, when the military didn't. There have always been reasons a local prosecutor will defer to the military independent of the likelihood of a conviction--for example, money and time not needed to be spent when the military does it. Etc., etc.,etc.


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