Government and Regulations

Update on Sexual Assault in the Military

Sexual assault in the military has decreased by 1%, and Army Major General Camille Nichols feels “there are still many hurdles to overcome.”


Reports of sexual assault among military personnel are still at high levels, according to the DoD’s 12th Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, covering October 2014 through September 2015.

The department received 6,083 reports for 2015 involving service members—only a 1% drop from 6,131 in 2014. Climate survey results also showed that about 16,000 service members intervened in situations they believed to have a risk of sexual assault, the DoD says.

Some of the data on sexual assaults come from 459 participants in 58 focus group sessions, part of an alternating cycle of surveys and focus groups conducted in support of the annual report.

Research has “consistently shown that sexual assault is most likely to occur in environments where there are unhealthy social factors,” the report says. Those factors include gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and other problems that “degrade or devalue individuals and their contributions in the workplace.” In cases of 657 formal complaints concerning sexual harassment, 74% of substantiated incidents occurred on duty. Nearly all complainants were enlisted. The largest single group of complainants by both gender and pay grade was females in pay grades E1-E4. Forty percent of substantiated offenders were in pay grades E5-E6; 96% were men.

About one-third of victims said the perpetrator sexually harassed them prior to the assault. Most survey respondents said they knew their alleged offenders; 57% said the alleged offender was someone they considered a friend or acquaintance.

“Our efforts are having an impact, but there are still many hurdles to overcome,” said Army Major General Camille Nichols, director of the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office. Reporting is essential, she said. In fact, encouraging greater reporting is 1 of 5 key SAPR program elements. The DoD also took “significant action” to advance sexual assault prevention, improve response to male sexual assault victims, combat retaliation associated with sexual assault, and track accountability of sexual assault cases.

The DoD also is tracking the overall experience of investigation and justice. In a survey of assault victims, 77% said they would recommend others to report, and 80% who interacted with the Special Victims’ Counsel Program were satisfied with the experience.

The full report is available at

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