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Defense Department Report: Military Sexual Assaults Remain Under-Reported

U.S. military service members stand on a deck in this undated photo.

Credit: U.S. Department of Defense

Above: U.S. military service members stand on a deck in this undated photo.

The latest report from the Department of Defense on sexual assault in the military shows the problem may still be under-reported.

The DoD recently released figures for 2016, which show roughly 32 percent of people suffering sexual trauma reported the incident.

The number is higher than the estimated 25 percent reporting abuse when troops were surveyed in 2014, but it is still less than the number of incidents the military believes happened in 2016.

The Navy Region Southwest Regional Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Tonya McKennie listed the improvements in the Navy's response over the last decade.

“Coordinating services, working together, working with the victim – believing the victim," she said. "Believing them when they come to you and report. Listening to them. Listen, listen to what the victim needs.”

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Tonya McKennie is the Navy southwest regional sexual assault response coordinator, November 11, 2017.

Some of the problems that remain include clearing away the significant stigma attached attached to sexual trauma in the military. It's often most difficult for men to report sexual assault. There is also a fear that reporting an incident could impact the career of junior officers.

Department of Defense numbers show that the number of troops who report sexual assault is improving, but it is still far lower than what the military believes is the actual number.


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Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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