May 1, 2020

SWAN Responds to DoD’s Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for Fiscal Year 2019

Citing an increase in reports of sexual assault, the DoD report highlights programs’ progress over prevention efforts

Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) released its annual report on sexual assault for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. This report satisfies the congressional requirement for the Department to provide an annual report on sexual assaults involving members of the United States Armed Forces. Notably, the newly released report cited a 3 percent increase of reports of sexual assault to the DoD; however, because the report did not also include the number, or prevalence, of sexual assault cases this percentage increase cannot be interpreted as either a positive or negative trend. This report identified key strengths and challenges across the Department’s implementation of their current sexual assault prevention and response programs and introduced upcoming prevention strategies.

Senior Defense Officials acknowledged the importance of sexual assault prevention through the Department’s primary prevention plan, the Prevention Plan of Action. The report highlighted the plan’s flexibility for each service; however, there are several concerning gaps in the plan. SWAN CEO, Deshauna Barber elaborates, “the DoD has been extremely responsive to issues surrounding victim support, but it fails to address concrete and immediate solutions for sexual assault prevention, particularly at servicemembers’ earliest introduction to the military. This omission is especially troubling given earlier findings that sexual assaults are increasing at the Military Service Academies and the upcoming gender integration of Marine Corps boot camps. We are also concerned that a comprehensive prevention plan that includes several different acts of violence, like domestic violence, clouds the unique challenges and factors that contribute to military sexual assault.”

The report addressed prevention and response strategies within each Military Service of the following areas: unit climate, sexual assault reporting, victim assistance, and efforts to reduce and stop sexual assault. To access the report directly, click here.

About the Service Women’s Action Network

SWAN is a national, nonpartisan organization and member-driven community network advocating for the individual and collective needs of service women and women veterans. To date, SWAN has played a major role in opening all military jobs to service women, holding sex offenders accountable in the military justice system, eliminating barriers to disability claims for those who have experienced military sexual trauma, and expanding access to a broad range of reproductive healthcare services for military women.