WASHINGTON – Emphasizing that the Defense Department continues to encourage victims to come forward, Pentagon officials released a report today that says just under 1,400 cases of sexual harassment occurred in the military last year.
The congressionally mandated report defines sexual harassment as an unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that can affect a career, job performance or create an abuse workplace.
Of the 1,366 cases reported, 59 percent were substantiated, the report says. The numbers of people who formally reported a case of harassment and those who made informal complaints were split nearly evenly. Informal allegations are those that were not submitted through a service’s equal opportunity office, but reached commanders through other means.
In releasing the report, a senior Defense Department official told reporters those who alleged sexual harassment were predominately female enlisted members from the same unit as the alleged offender, with the majority holding the pay grades E-1 to E-4. The alleged offenders were predominantly male co-workers in pay grades from E-5 to E-9.
As with cases of sexual assault, DOD officials believe harassment in the military is often under-reported. “We want a climate where everybody reports whenever they’re offended,” one official said.
The reported harassment cases militarywide were significantly lower than the number of reported sexual assaults. Earlier this month, the department reported 5,061 cases of sexual assault for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013, a 50-percent increase over the previous year. Defense officials said assaults often are preceded by harassment and that they are determined to stamp out both.
“We aren’t leaving any options off the table to prevent sexual harassment,” one DOD official said, with the department expected to place a greater emphasis on improving oversight and training, as well as putting stronger mechanisms in place for managing sexual harassment incidents.