WASHINGTON, D.C. —
Air Force reports of sexual assault increased slightly in fiscal year 2016, according to the service’s annual report on sexual assault released in Washington, D.C., May 1.
The Air Force received 1,355 reports of sexual assault in FY16, compared to 1,312 in FY15.
Expressed as a percentage of the total Air Force population, including active duty, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, and appropriated fund civilian employees, 0.21 percent of Airmen reported a sexual assault in FY16 compared to 0.20 percent in FY15 and 0.21 percent in FY14, illustrating a flat trend for annual reports over the last three years.
“We must continue to drive a culture of prevention while ensuring victims readily come forward and report sexual assault,” said then-Acting Secretary of the Air Force Lisa Disbrow. “We must also be an Air Force that provides the care and support victims need while holding offenders accountable.”
Joint Base San Antonio is also seeing more reports, but local experts at the 502nd Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office believe that the rise in reports is demonstrating more trust by victims to come forward for support, not that sexual assault is happening more often. Trust in the sexual assault prevention and response program and processes, including the assignment of Special Victim’s Counsel attorneys, help convince survivors to ask for help.
Prevention of sexual assault is the responsibility of every Airman, said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.
“It’s about trust,” Goldfein said. “The crime of sexual assault shatters trust and has a direct and negative impact on our capabilities as a warfighting force. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a bystander in
this fight. We are all in. From the newest Airman to the most senior leader, every one of us has a responsibility to step forward and help stop sexual assault before it happens.”
The results of the FY16 sexual assault report will be compared to data from the Defense Manpower Data Center’s 2016 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey, which is conducted every other year for the active duty service branches. The Air Force uses the Workplace and Gender Relations Survey to measure the prevalence of sexual assault in the force.
JBSA is seeing less episodes of on installation work/training incidences, according to the 502nd SAPR Office. They believe the education of what constitutes a sexual assault and the push for respect among fellow military members, specifically in the work environment, may be causing this positive trend.
JBSA does experience a higher rate of restricted reports. The training environment adds to this effect. Many victims who are in training want support but don’t want to chance delaying their training programs. There are precautions and case reviews with commanders to ensure delay in training does not occur, but some victims still prefer to remain restricted. Some may later choose to change their report to unrestricted when they feel more comfortable.
The Air Force compares prevalence rates to reporting rates to evaluate Airmen’s confidence in coming forward to report sexual assault and receive support. Ideally, the service wants to eliminate the gap between prevalence of the crime and the number of reports received, then see both numbers come down to zero, said Col. Mark Ramsey, the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Operations Director.
“Our goal is to eliminate sexual assault from the Air Force, period,” Ramsey said. “We have leadership engaged at every echelon. We have provided our Airmen with both an awareness of this scourge in our ranks and the bystander intervention tools to engage. Our best chance of eradicating this crime from our Total Force is through strong leadership, being good wingmen, exercising the tools we’ve been given, and keeping true to our core values.”
JBSA has one out of five reports coming from male victims. Once again, it is believed that with more education and understanding of SAPR to include more male survivors coming forward and sharing their story is a positive factor. Local SAPR officials said the military is moving in the right direction to eliminate the stigma for men who are victims of sexual assault to come forward for support.
(Source: Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs)