Higher Incidence or More Willingness to Report?

The Pentagon released its Fiscal 2008 Report on Sexual Assault in the Military last week, noting that the number of reports had increased by eight percent over 2007. However, officials do not necessarily think that higher number is negative. Gail McGinn, deputy undersecretary of defense for plans, described the situation as indicating “service members feel more comfortable reporting the crime and are getting the care they need.” The executive summary notes that increased reports “do not reflect a rise in annual incidents.” According to the report, the services received 2,265 unrestricted reports. Of an initial 753 restricted reports, those in which a military member receives confidential care and does not initiate an investigation, 110 victims later converted them into unrestricted reports. According to the individual report for the Air Force, the service received 387 unrestricted reports, compared to 369 in 2007. USAF initially received 262 restricted reports, marking an increase of 30 over the prior year, but 42 of these were later converted to unrestricted. As an aid to its sexual assault prevention program, the Air Force plans to conduct an internal “prevalence and incidence” study during 2009 that will collect anonymous data to “discover the true incidence rate for sexual assaults” so the service can make “real-time comparisons” to the number of reports made annually. (Pentagon release)