Military Sexual Assault Statistics: What You Should Know

Military Sexual Assault Statistics: What You Should Know

America’s military Veterans performed an invaluable service for our citizens and our nation. Unfortunately, Veterans are also at a high risk of sexual assault from other military members, including their superiors or fellow servicemembers. Female Veterans are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault, reporting higher average rates of sexual assault than their male counterparts.

If you or a loved one experienced sexual assault during your time in the military, you could have grounds for disability compensation. Read on for more information about military sexual assault statistics and whether you’re eligible for benefits from the VA.

The Prevalence of Sexual Assault in the Military

According to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) recent annual sexual assault prevention and response report, sexual assault is becoming more prevalent in the military over time, with significant jumps even in just the last year. This increase in the prevalence rate of sexual violence is a worrying trend for active duty service members, military Veterans, and their family members.

As the report details, it is estimated that approximately 8% of female servicemembers experienced some type of unwanted sexual contact in 2021. This is the highest rate since the Pentagon started counting in 2004 by order of Congress. 

Male respondents reported a 1.5% unwanted sexual contact rate for the same timeframe. These numbers are unacceptably high for all active-duty military service members.

However, it’s important to note that the sexual assault prevention and response report has changed since its inception. Originally, only one question covered the possibility of sexual assault. As of 2014, several more specific questions are intended to help servicemembers report various types of unwanted sexual contact.

Sexual Assault Statistics in the Military

These sexual assault statistics are very worrying. According to the report:

  • The Marine Corps has the most unwanted sexual contact incidents. 13.4% of women in the Marine Corps experience unwanted sexual contact. This is an increase from 10.7% in 2018
  • Men in the Navy have the highest sexual contact rate at 2.1%, an increase from 1% in 2018
  • The Department of Defense counted 7260 reports of sexual assault throughout 2021 overall
  • However, the Department of Defense estimates that there were over 35,000 incidents. In other words, the report only captured a 20% reporting rate

The last statistic is especially troubling. In 2018, the reporting rate was closer to 30%. This indicates that military servicemembers are now reporting unwanted sexual assault less frequently than they were before, despite it happening more than in previous years. This could be due to decreased confidence in the military’s sexual assault response system.

In 2021, only 63% of male troops were confident that the chain of command would treat them respectfully after filing a sexual assault report. In contrast, 82% of male troops reported the same in 2018. Women saw a similar collapse in confidence in the military justice system, dropping from 66% to 39% in the same timeframe.

Even worse, prosecutions for military sexual trauma (MST) have decreased. In 2013, 71% of 1187 sexual assault cases resulted in a court-martial. As of 2021, the number has dropped to 42%, with 1974 cases. This is true for all branches of the armed forces, including the Army, Marines, Air Force, and Navy.

Has Sexual Assault Worsened in the Military?

As the above statistics indicate, sexual assault has likely increased in the military. If it hasn’t, then reporting has decreased. That is similarly worrying, as it indicates that the military will have a harder time catching perpetrators and restoring confidence in its prosecuting abilities among sexual assault survivors.

According to RAND, about one in 16 women and one in 143 men experience sexual assault during service. Sexual assault is even worse in service academies. In these environments, one in six women and one in 29 men experience sexual assault.

Additionally, approximately one in four women and one in 16 men experience sexual harassment at one point or another. Alongside these statistics, RAND estimates that deterrence is insufficient to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Military Sexual Assault?

RAND states that the Defense Department must undertake bold, serious actions to force resiliency and prevent and minimize military sexual assault.

As the above statistics indicate, deterrence is not enough of a negative force to prevent these condemnable behaviors. Furthermore, there are major gaps in sexual assault prevention and response training, which prevent military personnel from stopping sexual assault or knowing who to contact in the event of it.

For example, only the Air Force employs dedicated personnel with the sole job of implementing sexual assault and harassment prevention activities and evaluating their success. Because of this, military personnel is left largely by themselves and without clear support resources.

To prevent military sexual assault in the future:

  • The military should improve its sexual assault response chains and procedures to ensure that survivors feel safe and confident reporting their abusers
  • Maximize prosecutorial abilities to ensure that first and repeat offenders alike are punished to the maximum extent of the law
  • Create systems to track allegations of sexual assault and harassment throughout a given service member’s career
  • Change the military culture to prevent military personnel from protecting bad actors, who often go on to commit sexual assault multiple times, not just once

The military as a culture has a long way to go before it can make itself safe for all its personnel, especially female servicemembers. The military should do a much better job of protecting its servicemembers against sexual assault and kicking out the ones who commit it.

Can Survivors of Military Sexual Assault Receive Disability Benefits?

The VA does not provide direct disability benefits for sexual assault. However, if you are disabled or seriously injured because of a sexual assault incident, you could qualify for VA disability benefits.

For example, if a Veteran is sexually assaulted and develops PTSD as a result, they should qualify for disability benefits afterward. That’s because PTSD is directly service-connected; had they not been in the military, they would not have developed PTSD.

Furthermore, similar rules apply to any secondary service-connected disabilities. For instance, if a Veteran develops PTSD because of sexual assault, then develops sleep apnea or anxiety as a secondary condition, they could qualify for secondary disability benefits on top of their primary benefits.

However, it can be difficult for traumatized servicemembers to acquire and present the evidence they need to get disability benefits. That’s why they should contact knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys right away.

What Can You Do If You Want to Claim Benefits?

If you wish to claim benefits for the complications, conditions, or illnesses that arose because of sexual assault, remember that you need to follow a specific process.

First, you need to contact Veterans law attorneys like Berry Law. The right law firm can support you throughout every step of the process, including gathering evidence, filing your disability benefits claim, and deciding what claim to file based on your symptoms and their severity.

Next, you’ll need to gather much evidence, including lay statements, medical documents from your primary care physician or mental health care provider, and much more. This will be necessary to prove that you did not have the condition or illness before the inciting incident.

If you wish to acquire disability benefits for a condition that a sexual assault caused or exacerbated, you’ll need even more evidence. You may also need to appeal a denied claim for disability benefits in the future.

Contact Berry Law

Ultimately, military sexual assault shouldn’t exist at all. At the time of writing, military sexual assault has potentially increased compared to previous years. If you or a loved one were sexually assaulted and developed PTSD or another injury, you could have grounds for disability compensation.

Berry Law may be able to help. Our experienced attorneys can help you file a disability claim with sufficient evidence to maximize your disability rating or help you appeal a previously denied claim for benefits. Contact us today to learn more.


Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, Fiscal Year 2021 | SAPR.MIL

Countering Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military: Lessons from RAND Research

Effects of Military Sexual Trauma | VA Mental Health

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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