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Military sexual assaults have reached a four-year high as the Pentagon downplays its failures
Once again, military sexual assaults are on the rise — and the numbers tell a grim story.
The Pentagon's estimate of the number of service members who were sexually assaulted rose 37.5 percent from 14,900 in fiscal 2016 to 20,500 in fiscal 2018, according to the Defense Department's latest report on sexual assault in the military.
That is the highest number of sexual assaults in four years, the report says.
Moreover, a biennial survey indicated a 44 percent increase in female service members between the ages of 17 and 24 who said they had been sexual assaulted, defense officials said.
The number of reported sexual assaults climbed from 6,769 in fiscal 2017 to 7,623 in fiscal 2018 – a 13 percent increase, the report says.
The Marine Corps saw the biggest spike in reported sexual assaults with 835 reports in fiscal 2018, a 20 percent increase, the report says.
One contributing factor to the rise of reported sexual assaults in the Marine Corps is that more than 60 percent of women serving in the Corps are younger than 25, and that is the age group that is most at risk of being sexually assaulted, said Ashlea M. Klahr, director of health and resilience research of the office of people analytics.
There were also 2,501 reported sexual assaults in the Army in fiscal 2018, an 18 percent increase; 1,271 reports in the Air Force, an 11 percent increase; and 1,446 reported sexual assaults in the Navy, a 10 percent increase, the report found.
(DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office)
Most of the alleged perpetrators are between the ranks of E-3 and E-5 and they are at the same grade or slightly higher than their victims, said Navy Rear Adm. Ann Burkhardt, director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.
As part of the Defense Department's latest attempt to curb sexual assaults, the Pentagon will make sexual harassment a standalone crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced on Thursday.
But the increase in sexual assaults show that commanders continue to fail when it comes to prosecuting offenders, said retired Air Force Col. Don Christensen, president of the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders.
"How many more assaults and rapes and how many more victims denied justice must there be before a stubborn and selfish military brass stops fighting reform?" Christensen said Thursday in a statement. "The young women and men who serve our nation deserve better. It is time for Congress to stop giving the failing military leadership the benefit of doubt and pass real reform empowering military prosecutors. Enough is enough."
(DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office)
Still, Nate Galbreath, deputy director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, pushed back on the notion that none of the Defense Department's prevention efforts have worked thus far.
"We know that what we do works with people," Galbreath said. "The challenge is finding the right mix. As the reports shows this year … men are at not greater or increased risk for sexual assault than they were in 2016 and 2015."
However, with the Defense Department seemingly unable to make progress on this matter, Task & Purpose asked whether it is time for the Pentagon officials tasked with preventing sexual assault to resign.
"I don't think so," Galbreath said. "What I would offer to you is that we're the folks here that are the biggest advocates for victims of sexual assault in the Department of Defense. Personally, I've been with this now since 2007 and I plan to see this out to the end."
Galbreath acknowledged that the most recent report on sexual assaults makes him angry, especially since he has devoted his life to combating sexual assault, first as a criminal investigator and then as a clinical psychologist. To get a handle on the military's sexual assault problem, he said, defense official have to look at how service members meet and interact via social media.
"If we fired everybody because of a change in how the problem presented itself, we would have no one with any experience doing this job," Galbreath said. "It's just like: If the enemy changes its tactics, do you fire all of the commanders? Absolutely you don't. You have to get after this and you have to understand what's happening and what's changed."
SEE ALSO: 'Continuum Of Harm': The Military Has Been Fighting Sexual Assault In Its Ranks For Decades
WATCH NEXT: Regional Victims' Legal Counsel PSA
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.
The U.S. Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon effort looked a lot more possible this week as the three competing weapons firms displayed their prototype 6.8mm rifles and automatic rifles at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.
Just two months ago, the Army selected General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort — one of the service's top modernization priorities to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
Army officials, as well as the companies in competition, have been guarded about specific details, but the end result will equip combat squads with weapons that fire a specially designed 6.8mm projectile, capable of penetrating enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current M855A1 5.56mm round.
There have previously been glimpses of weapons from two firms, but this year's AUSA was the first time all three competitors displayed their prototype weapons, which are distinctly different from one another.