New Statistics on Military Rape and Reporting

To readers of this blog, the fact that rape of women in the U.S. military is rampant should not be news.  But just in case you needed more evidence, HuffPo has information on new figures that have just been released.

The Pentagon said it received 2,923 reports of sexual assault across the military in the 12 months ending Sept. 30 2008. That’s about a 9 percent increase over the totals reported the year before, but only a fraction of the crimes presumably being committed.

Among the cases reported, only a small number went to military courts, officials acknowledged.

The Pentagon office that collects the data estimates that only 10 percent to 20 percent of sexual assaults among members of the active duty military are reported _ a figure similar to estimates of reported cases in the civilian sphere.’

[. . .]

That increase includes a jump in cases from combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, to 165 from 131 the year before.

Congresswoman Jane Harman, a congressional critic of the military’s handling of sexual violence, said the statistics show the problem is still rampant.

“While the report shows modest improvement, we’re far from Mission Accomplished,” the California Democrat said in a statement. “Military women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.”

And sadly, that last point is one that has been true for some time.

The Pentagon claims that the increase in numbers is due to an increase in reporting rates, not an increase in rapes.  I sure as hell hope that they’re right, but I’m skeptical, especially since I couldn’t find any news sources reporting what exactly the Pentagon has done to encourage more victims to report.

What I found instead is Pentagon officials saying that the big problem with rape in the military isn’t the fact that rapists are serving in our armed forces and that women are being raped and personally (physically and emotionally) injured, but rather that rape victims’ personal injuries mean compromised military effectivness:

Couric asked Michael Dominguez, principal under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, how big a problem sexual assault is in the military.

“Sexual assault injures troops,” he said. “Injures readiness. So regardless of the numbers we have, it is by definition too much.

While I have no doubt whatsoever that rape does indeed compromise military effectiveness, I am also highly unimpressed, not to mention lacking real hope for change, when that’s what it takes for anyone in a position of power to sit up and take notice.  And when it’s the first thing to pop out of an official’s mouth when asked about it, rather than the far more appropriate answer: “Rape is a horrific crime and the U.S. military should not ever tolerate having rapists in its ranks.  So regardless of the numbers we have, one rapist is by definition too much.”

Also reported is the ugly truth that of 2,280 cases where victims provided full accounts and evidence, only 317 cases were referred for courts-martial and 247 were referred for nonjudicial punishment.  Which doesn’t sound a whole lot like “please, if you are raped, report it, and we swear we’ll take you seriously!” to me.  Actions speak louder than words.  It’s a cliche for a reason.

So while I’m open to being proven wrong — indeed, I would absolutely love, love, love to be proven wrong in this instance — I’m still rather convinced that the military is not doing nearly enough to stop rapes being committed by soldiers.  And I am therefore also rather skeptical that the increased reporting is good news about victims being more willing to come forward, rather than bad news about how there are more victims period.

h/t Abby Jean

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21 comments for “New Statistics on Military Rape and Reporting

  1. FashionablyEvil
    March 18, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Re: the more like to be raped than die in Iraq, I would like to point to evil fizz’s comment from the original Feministe post you linked to (from April 2008):
    Without intending to downplay the gravity of the situation, I would point out that a very small percentage of troops in Iraq are killed by enemy fire at all. Approximately 400,000 soldiers have cycled through Iraq and 4,000 of them have died (and not all in enemy fire). So your odds of dying are maybe 1%.

    I guess I just feel as though there might be better ways to highlight how appalling this is.

    Also, with respect to this comment:
    I’m still rather convinced that the military is not doing nearly enough to stop rapes being committed by soldiers.

    Really, until you address the fact that the military is, de facto, built on hypermasculine constructs that value physical strength and power, you’re kind of stuck.

  2. March 18, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Really, until you address the fact that the military is, de facto, built on hypermasculine constructs that value physical strength and power, you’re kind of stuck.

    Oh trust me, I agree. Which is a big part of the reason why I’m so convinced that the military isn’t doing enough. Because they’re nowhere near ready to admit and address that.

    As for the point that deaths in Iraq are statistically quite low, I agree and thought of it myself. But, while I have absolutely no desire to see casualty rates rise, I still think it’s a big problem when male soldiers are raping female soldiers at such higher rates than they are being killed in an ongoing war, no matter what the actual numbers are.

    Further, on a purely cynical level, it does make an effective soundbite. Look, a site like Bossip seems to have reported on the issue at all because of that little tidbit. It’s hard to shock people into caring about an issue like rape culture (rather than merely being horrified about a single, particularly horrific rape), and, I think probably because people expect soldiers to die in war but not to be raped by one another, it seems to work. The fact that all of here get it is the reason that I didn’t focus on it in this post. But, for a wider audience? It seems to matter.

  3. March 18, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    …following up on that comment, the fact that people (accurately) expect people to die in high numbers during war but still apparently support war in rather high numbers, is of course a different problem entirely.

  4. Eliza H.
    March 18, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    This wouldn’t be a problem if women were not so hung up on the fact that they want to be counted equal to men even in the military. If we didn’t fight to be counted with men in the military then this would be a null issue.

  5. codyb
    March 18, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    eliza, that is a grotesque display victim blaming. thats like saying “well she shouldn’t have been dressed so sexy.” does the fact that women want to be in the military (and risk their lives for the U.S., or whatever nation state they are fighting for) mean that they deserve to be raped? am i hearing you right? or is it just that you think that women in the military ‘had it coming’?

  6. March 18, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Apologies everyone, Eliza is banned.

    I have zero tolerance for this bullshit. Get it? Zero.

  7. Lynn
    March 18, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    BBC also covered it:

    I can’t say what it’s like for servicewomen, but on the civilian side all I’ve seen are pamphlets with contact info in the base clinic.

    And you know, when I was grabbed and such, being discouraged from reporting it. I got the impression the person who told me this genuinely thought it was the best for me, since the repercussions were most likely to be entirely on my end.

    The numbers make it look like they were right.

  8. Henry
    March 18, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    “Really, until you address the fact that the military is, de facto, built on hypermasculine constructs that value physical strength and power, you’re kind of stuck.”

    I’m not sure how you can have an effective miltary that isn’t based on “hypermasculine constructs that value strength and power” although I confess to not really being sure what qualifies as “hypermasculine”.

    At the end of the day, our job is to kill people and blow shit up. You cannot survive in a combat situation without a certain aggressive mindset, and valuing strength and power is part of that.

    That being said, the Marine Corps (I can’t speak for the other branches, but I suspect it’s similar) definitely does not do enough to teach young guys basic philosophy and make them understand the moral implications of certain attitudes. You hear over and over again what is against the rules, and what your punishment will be, but no one ever talks about why certain things are wrong. It’s seen as somehow beyond our capability to try and temper the redneck culture (for lack of a better term, my apologies to any southerners here) that pervades the Corps.

  9. Jen
    March 18, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    The reality is that this IS a huge problem in the military for a variety of reasons but none so effectively displayed as the fact that the DoD claims 38% Courts martial rate which in true numbers reflects 317. If almost 3000 reports create only 317 cases taken to trial and some unknown number of convictions (because that is not something they track…) how do we expect survivors to feel as though they are being taken care of seriously and perpetrators think twice about committing these crimes.

    Claiming Justice is a project I started with a fellow veteran to address MST claims in the VA, as well as looking to address the climate in which it happens. Check out our site at

    One important note; take a look at many of the veterans organizations out there, notice that Feministe has a deeper look at this report and topic than organizations who are dedicated to veterans issues. It’s telling.

  10. evil_fizz
    March 18, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    I’m not sure how you can have an effective miltary that isn’t based on “hypermasculine constructs that value strength and power” although I confess to not really being sure what qualifies as “hypermasculine”.

    At the end of the day, our job is to kill people and blow shit up. You cannot survive in a combat situation without a certain aggressive mindset, and valuing strength and power is part of that.

    Here’s the thing: strength, power, and aggression do not have to be gendered concepts. But they are treated as such in the Army and it exacerbates the culture which says that women are inherently weak. It’s not a stretch to get from “women are weak and weakness is bad” to thinking less of women, particularly those you serve with. I’ve written about understanding this connection recently, although I haven’t publicized the post because I don’t like taking too many potshots at my employer.

  11. March 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Colonel Ann Wright has done some really great reporting about sexual assault in the military.

    Too bad the article didn’t mention that women are being murdered to cover up the rapes and then the military calls it a suicide (as in the case of LaVena Johnson).

  12. March 18, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Thanks for posting this Cara, b/c it is helpful w/ my own battle on what they teach the military WRT sexual assault, rape and DV. There are so many things they leave out when they brief uniformed personnel on DV and Sexual violence.

    Here is something else to consider, b/c I don’t buy that the numbers are due to more reporting, b/c there are two types of reporting in the military. Restricted and unrestricted. You can report a violent crime against yourself to someone and have it actually reported and investigated, or report it and have no action taken. In the latter you may disclose to no more than THREE people what happened to you, and they must be chaplains or someone else w/ privilege to keep that info to themselves.

    Also, if a person is convicted of a violent crime they lose their right to bear arms. So, now you would have a soldier, sailor, marine or airmen who can no longer carry a weapon. Even if they are accidentally issued one, their SUPERIOR is held accountable, as in it can ruin that person’s career. So someone convicted is discharged for not being able to be fully combat ready. If the alleged attacker is a “good soldier ™”, I have no trouble believing that a blind eye will be turned so that they don’t have to risk losing that person.

    I have been collecting info for a month, and am coming up w/ the same neat clean numbers from the same Pentagon sources the whole time. I am not buying any of it.

  13. March 18, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Notice, thanks for the links. In the truthdig article: I have a friend in NC who knew Lauterbach and her assailant, and anyone that even heard of her there was all prepared w/ “she’s such a liar!”. Right up until they found her body, and then my friend called me crying b/c she didn’t believe the poor woman. Military communities are already programmed to not believe someone when it actually happens, which makes me so sick.

  14. E.M. Russell
    March 19, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    “Military women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.”
    What in the HELL. I’d love to have some figures on how many female soldiers actually serve in the army and what the rates of sexual assault and rape are compared to the rest of women in America.
    Found this “Twenty-nine percent say they were raped during their military service.” and “In 2007, Harman said, only 181 out of 2,212 reports of military sexual assaults, or 8 percent, were referred to courts martial. By comparison, she said, 40 percent of those arrested in the civilian world on such charges are prosecuted’ from

    March 19, 2009 at 5:24 pm


  16. March 20, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Looks like the Brits have the same problem:

    Rape conviction rates still very low
    Lack of police training and judgmental attitudes mean many cases do not reach court
    Afua Hirsch, legal affairs correspondent, Friday 13 March 2009 14.31 GMT Article history

  17. Sailorman
    March 20, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    It seems worth it to compare the military to the rest of society. Do we have any JAGs on the board?

    Rape accusations and convictions are, for a variety of reasons, very hard to get from a criminal prosecution sense. We all know why-it’s damn hard to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt when the defendant is swearing to Jesus that it was consensual, or that it never happened.

    IIRC (I’m not a JAG), military courts have the ability to prosecute their staff in a manner which is forbidden by federal courts. Also IIRC, I think that military courts can (?) prosecute the accuser…

    Basically, AFAIK, “military law” =/ “normal law.” I’m not sure about the specifics, but I have a gut feeling that the data would make more sense if we knew more about the laws. Laws drive behavior to a large extent. this is a problem, and if the laws are at the root of it then it would be good to know.

  18. March 20, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Sexual assault experts dispel date rape myths
    By Nancy Montgomery, Stars and Stripes
    European edition, Monday, March 16, 2009

    HEIDELBERG, Germany — “They plot, they plan, they fantasize.

    They’ll get her drunk, they’ll get her alone, they’ll get her.

    They’ll do it again whenever they feel like it, because they can.

    Experts on sexual assault told more than 100 U.S. Army Europe senior leaders that the soldier who rapes a drunken woman after a night of partying made no mistake: He probably did it before and will do it again…”

  19. Kat
    April 24, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    In the military the rate of reported cases are going up because we have an awesome system in place. For active duty members there are Restricted case which the evidence box is labeled with a number and kept at OSI for a year max or if the victim wants to go unrestricted within that year they can. Restricted cases are completely confidential, so military members feel a little better about it then when and if they are strong enough they can go try to get a case for a court marshal. Unrestricted case are for active duty and military civilians and spouses. These have to be reported to police and OSI. I know this because i am a victims advocate and have been since 2004, when they finally put a program in place for sexual assault. I have had a few cases and this is a wonderful program. We try to get the world out about preventing sexual assault and about our program there fore more cases reported. They feel more secure knowing they don’t have to go public if they don’t want to!

  20. Luke Easter
    July 27, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    LaVena Lynn Johnson & Jamie Leigh Jones (Military Cover-Up?)

    Just when you think you’ve heard it all,
    Another name is slammed into a brick wall,
    LaVena Johnson an Army Private First Class,
    Is she the first? Certainly this PFC isn’t the last.

    Is it any wonder Osama Bin Laden can’t be found?
    With a criminal loose in our camp running around,
    Destroying evidence, burning bodies, again & again,
    Calling themselves soldiers, claiming they are men.

    What a shame when the real enemy is on the same side,
    Behind the color of camaraderie these cowards hide,
    Punched in the face, loose teeth, she was only 5 feet 1,
    The Army claims its suicide, that’s all, over and done.

    How many before shooting themselves bust their own lip,
    Severe enough to the point it needs more than one stitch,
    Surprisingly they didn’t say she tried to saw herself in half,
    Which lie would be easier to swallow? You do the math.

    So, how did that chemical burn get on her private parts?
    Oh yeah, maybe a tattoo, some kind of new wave art,
    Why would someone waste time getting rid of DNA?
    Just maybe without detection they’re free to get away.

    Being right handed, she shot herself in the left side of the head,
    Moved her body from 1 place to another “after” she was dead,
    From the size of the exit wound when the trigger was released,
    There was no breath left because she was immediately deceased.

    The U.S. Army actually tried lying, hooray for her dad,
    He gave that crap the smell test and oh did it smell bad,
    7/19/05 her dead body found in a contractor’s tent, KBR,
    Broken nose, black eye, shot in the head and body scars.

    Military personnel or civilians aren’t we on the same side?
    Who is the American Government protecting, why that lie?
    Had to be someone with pull to get her alone, you’d think,
    I don’t have to be standing next to skunk to know it stinks.

    Where’s is the ACLU, what happened to the mighty NAACP?
    She could not have been more violated, do you not agree?
    A 19-year-old honor student should be shown more respect,
    But, this is how she’s being treated. Hey! What the heck?

    Can’t call it racial because all women are treated the same,
    Even academies and bases in the states there is this claim,
    We are truly near the end of days soon God will work it out,
    Vengeance will certainly be more than a punch in the mouth.

    The Uniform Code Of Military Justice aka the U.C.M.J.,
    But, where is this promise for LaVena, her assailant got away,
    Judging by the condition of her remains, she put up a fight,
    Now John and Linda Johnson are paving the road to right.

    Funny thing though, seems they have a roadblock in Iraq,
    It’s from the U.S. Army, who supposedly has their back,
    The saying, “with friends like these who needs enemies?”
    Guess the Army thinks first the perpetrator said, “please?”

    Here’s a little something to me that is simply down right scary,
    The hole in her head was from a pistol, which she did not carry,
    Oh yeah, if you think that’s something how does this fact sound?
    The fatal bullet that went through her head was never even found.

    If there ever was this kind of incompetence in World War II,
    Adolph Hitler or his off spring would be telling us what to do,
    Oops, I don’t mean us because there’d be no Blacks or Jews,
    And only if the Furor liked Mexican food maybe a Hispanic or 2.

    Whomever, wherever, whatever, an injustice did occur,
    We can’t make it right for others without justice for her,
    Hey, White House, the most powerful office in the world,
    Do you have the gonads to speak out for this Johnson girl?

    A petition was signed that is over twelve thousand strong,
    The Army closed the case anyway saying nothing’s wrong,
    Nothing like U.S. Intelligence, it’s the reason for the attack,
    If they hadn’t been storing WMD’s we wouldn’t be in Iraq.

    I saw something on the Internet much sadder than sad,
    Her mom distraught, shedding tears, clutching her dad,
    Soldiers carrying LaVena’s body almost made me mad,
    Draped over her lifeless casket was an American flag.

    Apparently the stars and stripes blows in two directions,
    There is one for neglect, another for promised protection,
    As it laid over her body on that particular sun filled day,
    Was it 1 of protection or 1 allowing the perp to get away?

    Beware this incident is not about colors, Black or White,
    Remember it’s a statement in the arena of wrong vs. right,
    I wonder if her recruiter bothered to make LaVena aware,
    The same injustice suffered here is also allowed over there.

    And here’s a timeless saying, which is entering my mind,
    There’s even a movie with the title, “Behind Enemy Lines,”
    Now that the light is shining on a lie that 3 years rang true,
    Who will step in & accomplish what the enemy refused to do?

    For every ranking Army official who signed off on this case,
    Nothing less than a court martial is what each 1 should face,
    Upon their conviction exactly where should they have to go?
    What about life in a cell behind barb wire fences at Gitmo.

    BTW, this isn’t the end of this kind story, not in the least,
    The sad tale of a 21 year old from Texas, PFC Tina Priest,
    After her “suicide” another soldier through his own neglect,
    Guilty! Being in the quarters of a member of the opposite sex.

    Like priest who joined the church to freely molest little boys,
    Sexual predators join the armed forces for their perverted joys,
    The biggest question still remains will something ever be done?
    Wining the internal war protecting our daughters from our sons.

    Update! From March 15,2009 here is some very disturbing news,
    This is from a Pentagon Report and it’s disturbingly so very true,
    There’s an 8% jump from sexual assaults reported last year 2008,
    Rising to 26% in war zones while 89% of the culprits get to skate.

    Yes, because only 11% of reported cases will ever make it to a trial,
    How many are actually convicted? The DOD doesn’t know (smile,)
    So, exactly what are these women doing after shedding their tears?
    Sadly, they are looking at the other side & at their own through fear.

    LaVena,7/19/2009 is the 4-year anniversary of your death,
    And the case is still unsolved? Well, don’t not hold your breath,
    Michael Jackson dies, everybody who is anybody shows,
    Savagely beaten, raped, murdered and still nobody knows?

    Oops! I’m very sorry, I meant to say that “they” are aware,
    In actuality the problem is that “they” obviously don’t care,
    Those who stood up for justice with Jena 6 where are “they?”
    Hey! Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson what do you have to say?

    Or any so-called Black Leader for that matter, what’s going on?
    Television, radio, Internet, news media, your voice is so strong,
    Even the SPCA when it came to Michael Vick, raised holy hell,
    But the true story of LaVena Johnson, no one has the guts to tell?

    LaVena Lynn Johnson your homicide’s over 48 months old,
    Almost from day one the Army says your case is closed,
    Claiming you alone pulled the trigger, oh how very bold,
    I wonder, just maybe, is Fort Knox filled with fool’s gold?

    During this time lots of turmoil from an incident in Cambridge, Mass.,
    A White cop, Black Harvard professor, was it racial or is about class?
    Many are so upset check this out, some are finding it hard to sleep,
    And the injustice to you dear sister? That’s right not a single peep.

    There were no lives lost, no blood shed, only pride & feelings hurt,
    While LaVena Lynn quietly lies impervious under six feet of dirt,
    There was even intervention by The President Of The United States,
    Our innocent young soldier, how much longer will you have to wait?

    The question is, what course are either of these fellows going to pursue?
    Legal action with negative results, like your parents have tried for you?
    I wonder what non-life threatening issues will make the headlines next?
    Oh yeah! The Taco Bell dog died and it’s big news, but you they forget.

    And although yours is the most heinous again you are not alone,
    Google & ponder the case of KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones,
    Left alive it’s another unbelievable story, heartbreaking & intense,
    Doctors took photos, a rape kit, however security lost the evidence.

    Offered a drink by co-workers, a couple of sips, out like a light,
    Repeatedly penetrated back and front, unable to put up a fight,
    Bam! Headache! She awakened with blood all over her thighs,
    A victim screaming out for justice & no one answered her cries.

    Called her father, who called his congressman, everyone appalled,
    More calls, inquiries, like PFC Johnson; her case too has stalled,
    There’s a term for negative situations like this; it’s the X-factor,
    Not only the Army to blame but what about the KBR Contractor?

    These two ladies had more in common than just prey on the menu,
    Safe under the guise of government protection at their Iraqi venue,
    Alien or resident, civilian or military, rape & murder is still a crime,
    Death penalty, life without parole, yet the victims are doing the time.

    “The Silent Truth” can be found at,
    Director Joan Brooker-Marks with LaVena’s dad and mom,
    A documentary as finally the truth will be made known to all,
    Seeking to bring you justice, a few have answered the call.

    by Luke Easter

    I sincerely urge everyone reading this to tell your family members,
    friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, teachers, counselors,
    the principle, doctors, nurses, mechanics, acquaintances, to notify city
    council, the mayor, congressional district, state senator, governor, DOD, the white house, favorite radio, television station, newspapers and demand this investigation be reopened. Justice will never be done for all sexually assaulted victims in the military male & female, until it’s done for one. Hiding something doesn’t make it go away but exposing it will. Thank you!

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