Sexual Assault While Serving

The Department of Defense will encourage reporting, connect survivors to services, and hold offenders accountable in response to sexual assault.

a graph of a number of women

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One in three women and one in four men experience a form of physical sexual violence in their lifetime. A recent Department of Defense report revealed troubling statistics about instances of sexual assault in the military.

Data from the Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members was used to estimate the occurrence of sexual assault among Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines members. In 2018, 20,500 service members experienced sexual assault; that’s six percent of active duty females and 0.7% of active duty males. Yet, only 6,053 service members reported the assault. Nationally, most sexual assaults are never reported. The military is no exception.

Sexual assault survivors don’t report for a number of reasons. Offenders are frequently someone known to the survivor like a neighbor, current or former intimate partner, or coworker. Some survivors feel shame or doubt they will be believed. Others fear the legal process, the justice system, or reprisal. Sixty-four percent of female service members who reported being assaulted to authorities perceived at least one negative reaction to their report.

In the report, the Department of Defense states that they are creating polices and protections to encourage greater reporting. They also declare that connecting survivors to rehabilitative services and holding offenders accountable are high priorities.

Sexual violence is linked to other forms of violence. Promoting social norms that protect against violence and creating environments to prevent assault are critical to military personnel and to society more broadly.

Databyte via Niall McCarthy, “Sharp Increase In Sexual Assaults In The U.S. Military,” Statista. 6 May 2019.

If you have been affected by sexual violence and wish to speak with your nearest sexual assault service provider, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline (RAINN) at 1-800-273-8255 or visit