A new report on sexual assault in the military claims a whopping 13% increase in reported cases across all military branches compared to last year, according to the Associated Press. This double-digit jump was identified after “close to 36,000 service members said in a confidential survey that they had experienced unwanted sexual contact.” Army soldiers led with a 26% increase in reports, with navy personnel coming in second with a 9% increase.
While the pandemic has complicated data collection and kept numbers relatively low over the past two years, now that military facilities are open and running at (or close to) full capacity again following the covid pandemic, today’s numbers more accurately reflect the current situation. Great: Knowing that a global lockdown might be one of the only things that kept military sexual assault incidents at bay really instills my faith in the county’s supposed heroes.
This infuriating statistic comes at a time when the military has seemingly fallen from the country’s graces: Apparently, the army might have to stow away some camo gear after a particularly rough recruitment season and will likely miss its target by 10,000 new recruits this fall. Biden’s recent student loan forgiveness announcement doesn’t bode well for the future of a robust armed force, either.
The potential silver lining, here, is that an increase in reporting might suggest servicemembers’ growing confidence to come forward with such allegations. But as the AP points out, the Pentagon’s recent efforts to stop sexual assault itself have seen only incremental success. “While the military has made inroads in making it easier and safer for service members to come forward,” the AP reports, “it has had far less success reducing the assaults, which have increased nearly every year since 2006.”
Not too long ago, the military was under intense scrutiny after the death of Specialist Vanessa Guillen, who disappeared from her station in Fort Hood, Texas, in April of 2020, shortly after she confided in her mother that she was sexually harassed by a fellow soldier. Over two months after her initial disappearance, Guillen’s dismembered remains were found in a nearby river. A fellow army specialist who was accused of murdering her later died by suicide, and authorities charged his girlfriend with helping to hide Guillen’s body.
Guillen’s death sparked public outrage and demands for better handling of sexual assault in the military—efforts that her older sister, Mayra, spearheaded. Mayra Guillen’s advocacy led to the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last December, “which includes a measure making sexual harassment a crime for the first time in the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” according to TIME.
Only time will tell whether or not an increase in reports results in an increase in action, but forgive us if we’re rather cynical about real change coming from within an institution built on violence, masculine domination and control.