Fostering Constructive Dialogue on Military Sexual Assault
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV FORT MCNAIR DC
Pagination or Media Count:
At a press conference in January 2012, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated that he estimates there were 19,000 sexual assaults in the military in 2011. That number is derived from a statement in the Department of Defense DOD Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, Fiscal Year 2010. The report does not actually explain its methodology for arriving at the number, but it does state the number is based on data from the Defense Manpower Data Center 2010 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey. Perhaps more importantly, the report does not refer to 19,000 sexual assaults, but rather 19,000 reports by individuals of unwanted sexual contact. The Defense Manpower Data Center 2010 survey never uses the number 19,000. Rather, the document relays the results of a survey of 10,029 Active-duty female Servicemembers and 14,000 Active-duty male Servicemembers. The survey itself is forthright and explicit about the numbers it produces and its methodology. The sample size and sample composition necessarily make extrapolation military-wide problematic. The sample was clearly weighted toward female responses, and the definition of unwanted sexual contact did not align at all with the colloquial understanding or any statutory or legal definition of sexual assault. Nevertheless, the number 19,000 arose as an extrapolation from the numbers in this sampling, and this number has pervaded the media discussion ever since.4 Most practitioners of justice and criminal investigators throughout the military should agree that the figure cited by Secretary Panetta is unrealistically high.
- Sociology and Law