ARLINGTON, Va. — Active-duty soldiers not deployed reported three times as many sexual assaults in 2007 as their counterparts downrange, according to Army officials.

One reason for the difference is the U.S. Central Command’s ban on alcohol, according to Carolyn Collins, the Army’s chief for sexual assault prevention and response.

Army investigators have found that alcohol is “the weapon of choice” in sexual assaults reported by soldiers, playing a role in more than half of all such attacks, Collins said.

“So it’s not surprising that where there’s alcohol available, we would see a higher level of assaults,” she told reporters Friday during a roundtable to discuss the Army’s 2007 sexual assault statistics.

In the active-duty Army in 2007, there was an average of 2.6 sexual assaults reported for every 1,000 soldiers, Collins said.

But in CENTCOM, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan, that reported rate dropped to just 0.86 attacks per 1,000 soldiers, Collins said.

Army investigators routinely collect information about the presence or absence of alcohol when looking into reported sexual attacks, but Collins said she did not have those statistics available for CENTCOM.

However, “it’s a very small number,” she said of the number of CENTCOM attacks that included alcohol as a factor.

Factors other than alcohol come into play in the lower number of attacks reported by deployed soldiers, according to Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, the Army’s chief of Public Affairs.

“It’s a mix of things,” Cucolo said Friday, including what he called “the conditions of duty” when soldiers are deployed: “tight-knit groups, living in close quarters, with no secrets.”

Considering the fact that the overwhelming majority of sexual assault victims are women, CENTCOM also has a smaller pool of potential victims.

Just 10 percent of deployed soldiers are female, compared to 14 percent overall in the active-duty Army, according to statistics from the Defense Manpower Data Center that were provided to Stripes by Army personnel spokesman Lt. Col. George Wright.

There’s also the question of whether it’s more difficult for sexual assault victims to report their experiences in combat zones.

“Underreporting is an issue,” Collins said, but it’s an issue everywhere. “We don’t have any evidence that it’s necessarily underreported less in theater than anywhere else,” she said.

Assault factors:

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