The Pentagon Takes Aim at Sexual Assaults

The military plans a new database and other steps to help victims and catch perpetrators in the ranks.

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A Department of Defense-wide sexual assault database is currently under development, according to Dr. Kaye Whitley, director of the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. Over the past three months, the military services have developed a proposal for how such a database should be constructed. Funding has now been secured and, she says, the department is "working hard to have it completed by January 2010.

"In the meantime," she said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, "we are collecting data regarding service referrals for victims of sexual assault."

Since 2005, 1,896 people have come forward to report sexual assault under a "restricted reporting" option that provided confidential disclosure for sexual assault victims. The committee heard testimony that the data shows that most of the reported victims (73 percent) are at the rank of privates through privates first-class, as are 54 percent of the offenders.

Whitley added that it is often difficult "to get victims to stay with the military criminal justice process." She noted that during testimony and investigations, they may have to "tell their story 25, 30 times, and it's very painful. And they drop out."

When Army divisions deploy under a new sexual assault response program, the Defense Department will assign two unit victim advocates per battalion and one sexual assault response counselor for every brigade.