Report: Sexual trauma not uncommon in Reserve
WASHINGTON — A report under review by defense officials for nearly two years says 60 percent of female reservists and 27 percent of male reservists have undergone some form of sexual trauma related to their military service.
But members of the Joint Task Force for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, formed by the Pentagon to deal with sexual harassment and sex crimes in the military, say the statistics are out-of-date.
The delayed report, based on phone interviews with reservists who served between 1950 and 2000, was released Thursday by Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, who accused Pentagon leaders of trying to hide the data.
Defense officials said the report had been under a factual review. Task force spokesman Roger Kaplan said the numbers don’t reflect improvements made in dealing with those issues.
“This just tells us about the conditions that were present, and it justifies why the military has placed a new emphasis on combating sexual harassment and sexual assault,” he said.
The report, which was originally scheduled to be released in 2001, was not completed by the Department of Veterans Affairs until October 2003. It also notes that 11 percent of women and 1.2 percent of men in the Guard or Reserve were exposed to rape or attempted rape.
But Kaplan said a more recent study conducted and released in 2004 showed the incidence of sexual harassment among women in the Guard and Reserve at 19 percent, and at about 3 percent for men. Only 3 percent of women and less than 1 percent of men in those units reported a sexual assault in the previous year.
“We’re focused on this, and we're continuing to make things better,” he said. “This behavior is antithetical to military values.”
Thursday’s report notes that many of the reservists surveyed were not eligible for counseling or other medical assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs, because they never served on active duty. Fewer than 19 percent who suffered some sexual trauma sought help of any kind.
If veterans’ services were extended to those groups, the report said, the costs could total more than $900 million over the next decade.
Researchers said the prevalence of sexual trauma of any kind was consistent with reports of active-duty problems at the time. Kaplan said those numbers have also since decreased.