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Sexual harassment, not assault, is focus of new DOD report

WASHINGTON — Active duty and National Guard troops reported nearly 1,400 incidents of sexual harassment in 2013, according to a Pentagon report on sexual harassment released Thursday — the department’s first overall look at the issue.

While the Pentagon has tracked criminal sexual assault reports for years and conducting surveys to estimate how many rapes and other assaults go unreported, the services have been tracking sexual harassment separately.

But because of a requirement in 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, sexual harassment — defined as a form of discrimination rather than a direct assault — will be tracked annually across the Department of Defense using standard methodology.

Although the numbers in the new report are low compared to the totals for sexual assault in the Department of Defense, the report establishes a baseline, and the military will establish policies in coming months to eliminate barriers to reporting sexual harassment, defense officials said.

Sexual assault reports have increased in DOD in recent years, with the total jumping about 50 percent in 2013 from the previous year, according to recent DOD data.

There is a clear relationship between sexual harassment and assault, a defense official who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity said. According to a 2012 DOD survey on workplace and gender relations, nearly 30 percent of women and 19 percent of men who reported being sexually assaulted said their attackers had also sexually harassed them.

“We know there’s a nexus between sexual harassment and sexual assault,” the official said.

DOD will be working to understand that relationship better, as well as to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment, the official said.

Among the report’s other findings:

  • Of 1,366 reported incidents of sexual harassment among active duty troops and National Guard members, 806 were substantiated. Another 32.5 percent were not substantiated, and 11.5 percent were pending at the end of fiscal year 2013.
  • Complainants were predominantly female enlisted members in pay grades E-1 to E-4.
  • Offenders were predominantly men from the same unit as the victim, and slightly more than half were NCOs.
  • The greatest number of incidents took place on military installations.
  • Just over half of the substantiated allegations of sexual harassment were for crude and offensive behavior, or “offensive or embarrassing verbal or nonverbal behaviors of a sexual nature,” according to the report.

carroll.chris@stripes.com
Twitter: @ChrisCarroll_

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