Anonymous reports reveal military sexual misconduct truths

Months before the nude Marine photo-sharing scandal erupted, service members were complaining about a similar issue in an anonymous Defense Department survey on sexual assault and harassment.

In a report issued May 1, the Pentagon said that nearly 6,200 military members said that sexually explicit photos of them were taken or shared against their will by someone from work, and it made them “uncomfortable, angry, or upset.” And, across the services, female Marines made up the largest percentage of women who complained.

More than 22,000 service members said they were upset or angry when someone at work showed or sent them pornography. And, again, female Marines represented the highest percentage of complaints from women.

Also read: Navy and Marine Corps considering mandatory separation for troops who share nude photos

The responses reflect a growing concern across the military about inappropriate social media behavior. The scandal came to light last month when sexually explicit photos of female and male Marines were being shared on a secret Facebook page. The revelation triggered a wide-ranging criminal investigation that now encompasses all the services, and has prompted changes and restrictions in military social media policies.

The latest survey results, however, make it clear that the issue has long been simmering in the military.

Nate Galbreath, deputy director of the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention office, said the results “tell us that this is a problem and we have to start having more conversations about social media behavior.”

The survey was released as part of the annual report on sexual assault and harassment in the military. It found that reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.

air force sexual assault

Defense officials, however, said the anonymous survey done as part of the report showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey.

Because sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, the Pentagon has used anonymous surveys for several years to track the problem. The survey was sent to more than 735,000 service members between June and October 2016, and more than 150,000 responded.

The two social media questions were asked for the first time in last year’s survey, Galbreath said, because the issue was becoming more of a concern.

According to the data, 1.3 percent of military women said someone took or shared explicit photos of them against their will. When divided according to military service, 2.3 percent of female Marines made that complaint, compared to 1.5 percent of female soldiers, 1.6 percent of female sailors and .5 percent of female airmen.

Related: Marines’ nude photo scandal is even worse than first realized

On the pornography question, 4 percent of military women said someone showed or sent them sexual explicit material that made them upset or angry. Six percent of female Marines had that problem, compared to 5 percent of female sailors, 4.5 percent of female soldiers and 2.1 percent of female airmen. The percentages of men complaining were much smaller overall.

The Marine Corps is the smallest military service, so while the percentages were the largest, the actual numbers of people affected were likely smaller than the other services.

Separately, the data released by the Pentagon on May 1 showed there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.

For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.

On retaliation, it found that 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” but only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administrative actions, or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.

Retaliation has been a difficult issue to sort out, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.

The anonymous survey, meanwhile, showed a steady decline in the number of service members saying they experienced unwanted sexual contact, which can be anything from inappropriate touching to rape.

Of the 14,900 people who said they experienced some type of unwanted sexual contact, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men.

TOP ARTICLES
Enlisted pilots could fly in combat for the first time since WWII

A number of reasons for pilot shortage include quality-of-life issues, recruitment by private airlines, and the strain of three decades of combat.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

The United States Merchant Marine is not a military service, but without it, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps couldn't go anywhere.

That time 'Fighting Dick' fought 'Fightin' Dick' at Antietam

Rarely will a moniker be used for two military leader at the same time. Even more rare is if the two meet on opposite ends of the battlefield.

6 ways you can tell a troop isn't an infantryman

Enter any base you may wonder which one of the troops fight in combat vs. those who ship off to support the war effort Well; we've got you covered. 

British Paratroopers and Gurkhas got into a huge battle royale in Kenya

A force-on-force exercise is under investigation for "descending into chaos" as some of the UK's best troops fought each other with fists and clubs.

This insane anti-aircraft gun chased the Israelis out of the sky

With four radar-guided 23mm cannon, the ZSU-23-4 Shilka could hit an aircraft almost two miles away hard with up to 1,000 rounds a minute.

7 military nicknames that are definitely not compliments

If you've got a nickname, you're either high enough rank to have earned one, you're a pilot, or you did something dumb enough to earn one of these.

8 Things your civilian resume needs to have right now

Checklists make life easier. This checklist will help you avoid some common pitfalls veterans make when trying to land that first job when they get out.

Why so many in the military are getting STDs

Cases of sexually transmitted diseases areon the rise across the U.S., but it's three to six times more common among troops. Let's talk about why.

This is why Yemen is a constant war zone

The situation in Yemen is more dire than previously understood, with a child dying every 10 minutes from hunger after Saudi Arabia enforced a blockade.