Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called for a set of tougher actions after Pentagon reported significant increase in the number of sexual assaults in the US military in 2018.
Sexual assaults reported by Defense Department employees, especially women, rose by 13 percent last year to 7,623 as compared to 2017, according to the “Fiscal Year ’18 Annual Report On Sexual Assault In The Military”.
Moreover, actual sexual assaults were likely to be about triple the reported number, as the survey noted that last year, only one in three service members who experienced sexual assault filed a complaint.
In a memo he released Thursday, the Acting Secretary took a strong stance, and outlined significant actions the department will take to eliminate sexual assault from the military through a two-pronged approach, prevention and accountability.
Dr. Elizabeth Van Winkle, executive director, Office of Force Resiliency, said Shanahan directed the department to develop new unit climate assessment tools and oversight mechanisms.
The department is taking steps to make sexual harassment a stand-alone crime within the military justice system.
A “Catch a Serial Offender Program” will be launched.
The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness will submit a plan to Shanahan by September 30 to improve assessment of military applicant character prior to selection.
The Chiefs of the Military Services, and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau will implement the Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention Plan of Action (PPOA).
Navy Rear Adm. Ann Burkhardt, director of the DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said the highest risk of sexual assault was noticed among younger enlisted women aged 17 to 24.
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