An internal Army report released yesterday acknowledged the alarming increase in numbers of rapes and sexual assaults within its ranks and indicated that these crimes may have been facilitated by faults and oversights within the system. According to The New York Times, the Army found that reported cases of sexual assault within the Army rose from 658 to 822 between 1999 and 2003. During the same period, the number of reported rapes increased from 356 to 469 cases.
The Army’s internal study follows the release of a Department of Defense (DoD) report, commissioned in response to feminist groups and lawmakers who have expressed concerns about the hike in numbers of reported assaults against servicewomen abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to The Washington Post. The DoD report as well as the Army internal investigation found that the military’s existing policies lacked basic medical care procedures for rape and assault victims. The Army’s internal report also acknowledged the often-stigmatizing environment victims experience when reporting a peer or even a superior. Former Army Captain Jennifer Machmer, a three-time assault and rape victim, told Salon, “The aftermath of reporting has been terrifying.”
In response to these findings, the Army plans to assign a “unit victim advocate” to help victims through the reporting process and to provide counseling and support, said the Army News Service. The Army also anticipates incorporating a more explicitly outlined sexual assault policy in their handbook, developing training programs for the prevention of sexual assault and installing a standardized system of reporting crimes and tracking punishments, according to the Army News Service. Currently, about 20 percent of offenders do not even have their crimes on permanent record. There is also no systematic way of tracking what aid victims received, if any at all.