Rapid Response to Issues of Military Sexual Assault

The National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence Across the Lifespan (NPEIV) is an overarching group of individuals, organizations, agencies, coalitions, and groups that embrace a national, multi-disciplinary and multicultural commitment to violence prevention across the lifespan.

Military sexual assault is an all too common occurrence in the Department of Defense. This was dramatically illustrated last week when Senator Martha McSally, a retired Air Force pilot, disclosed that she was sexually assaulted by a superior during the time she served in the military. She said she didn’t report the assault because she didn’t trust the system. In the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Annual Report to Congress (the most recent report available), DoD reported that there were 6,679 reports of sexual assault. This is a 10% increase from the FY 2016 report. Fifty-three percent of the offenses were aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, or rape, and 81% of the victims were women. The most recent report from the service academies reflected an increase of sexual assault reports at all academies except the Naval Academy, which remained the same as the previous year. The estimated number of men and women experiencing unwanted sexual contact at the U.S. military’s service academies jumped 47 percent since the figures were last gathered two years ago, raising concerns about the Pentagon’s efforts to reduce sexual violence among the future leaders of the U.S. armed forces.

Despite many policy changes related to sexual assault through provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in recent years, sexual assault remains a major problem across the Services. NPEIV is extremely concerned about what appears to be DoD’s inability to curb this scourge in the Department. Alleged offenders are often not held accountable while sexual assault survivors experience retaliation and reprisal and are often held accountable for collateral misconduct related to the sexual assault while their assailants experience no consequences. The FY 2016 Sexual Assault Report showed that 32% of survivors who reported the assault experienced retaliation/reprisal. It is not uncommon for survivors to be separated from the military or choose not to remain in the military given the multi-level betrayal experienced when they report the assault. Sometimes they receive an other-than-honorable (OTH) discharge that negatively affects their ability to receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

NPEIV calls on Congress to stop waiting for DoD leadership to solve this problem. They have so far not shown themselves to be up to the challenge. Congressional changes have not been effective in decreasing the incidence of sexual assault. Congress needs to take stronger action to make more substantial changes to the military system even if that means eliminating some of the discretion that commander’s currently have in handling sexual assault allegations. In addition, major culture change is needed to eliminate the rape culture that currently exists in the military. People who choose to serve our country deserve better.

NPEIV is committed to reducing interpersonal violence and its consequences through scientific research and application of empirical findings. It is our mission to make the prevention of interpersonal violence a national and international priority and to encourage healthy relationships by linking science, practice, policy and advocacy.

Through our many partnerships and collaborations, it is our vision to end all types of interpersonal violence, for all people, in all communities, at all stages of life. For more information, please visit www.npeiv.org.


The Family Violence and Sexual Assault Institute/The Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma (IVAT) serves as the fiscal and logistical agents of NPEIV and are a Non-Profit 501(C)(3) Corporation. 

© 2017 by NPEIV

Contact Us

Email : npeiv@ivatcenters.org

​Telephone : ​858-527-1860 ext. 4042