WASHINGTON - The US Defense Department has announced that more than 20,300 reports of sexual assaults have been filed at American military installations worldwide over the past four years, claiming a declining trend.
In a detailed report listing the bases for each service, the US military’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Office (SAPRO) further stated that its Army installations received a total of 8,284 reports of alleged sexual assault from fiscal 2013 through fiscal 2016, followed by the Navy, reporting 4,788 such abuses, the Air Force reporting 3,876 and the Marine Corps registering 3,400 cases, the US-based Military.com reported Saturday.
The Pentagon report, released on Friday, also pointed out that the Army facility with the most reports of sexual assaults during the 2016 fiscal year was Fort Hood in the southern state of Texas with 199 filed cases.
The Virginia-based Norfolk Naval Station received most of the sexual assault reports in the Navy during the same period with 270 allegations. The most such reports in the Marine Corps that year were filed at Camp Lejeune in the east-coast state of North Carolina with 169, and most reports during the year in the Air Force were registered at the US Air Force Academy in the western state of Colorado, with 44 alleged sexual abuse cases.
In a section titled "combat areas of interest," most sexual assault allegations during 2016 were reported in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, Iraq and Bahrain, ranging from 15 to 25.
In a statement accompanying the report, SAPRO further noted that it was releasing the data on sexual assaults at individual military bases worldwide in response to Freedom of Information requests for the statistics from news organizations.
SAPRO's annual reports on sexual assault in the military since 2012 have indicated regular declines in the rates. However, their statistics have been challenged by advocacy groups and several members of the US Congress.
Moreover, SAPRO further points out in its latest report that in fiscal 2016 only an estimated 32 percent of victims of sexual assault at US military installations have reported it -- up from projected 25 percent in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. This means that actual incidents of sexual assaults occurring at American military posts are likely much higher than the official figures.
According to SAPRO, the total of 20,348 reports of sexual assaults for the past four years included both "restricted" and "unrestricted" allegations.
An unrestricted report is one of a sex-related allegation made by an individual against one or more individuals that is referred for investigation to a Military Criminal Investigative Organization (MCIO) or civilian law enforcement with jurisdiction.
A restricted report is one made confidentially by a victim that may be seeking "advocacy, support services, medical care, and mental health counseling" and is not referred to criminal investigation, SAPRO said.