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'Clear threat': Reports of military sexual assault leap 50 percent

Published: Thursday, May 8 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Men under attack

Sexual assault in the military has been cast as a women's rights issue, but the latest data shows that men are affected as much as women — or more. In analyzing the Pentagon study's data, the Associated Press found that many more men were victims of assault in 2013 than women.

“About 6.8 percent of women surveyed said they were assaulted and 1.2 percent of the men,” according to the AP. “But there are vastly more men in the military; by the raw numbers, a bit more than 12,000 women said they were assaulted, compared with nearly 14,000 men."

"I think most men are embarrassed, especially because of homosexual stigma in the military," says Rinckey. He notes that men were especially silenced because of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," policy, which banned homosexual behavior in the military. More men may be coming forward now, he says, since "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has been lifted.

Just two months ago, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand from New York came up short of senate votes to pass a bill that would have removed the chain of command from prosecuting sexual assaults and other major military crimes, which would have allowed them to be tried outside the military. Gillibrand's bill, which would have represented more radical change, was passed over for a bill by Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, whose legislation gave the Pentagon more time to implement new sexual assault requirements, including making it a crime to retaliate against a victim and prohibiting commanders from overturning convictions.

Zenkus says that he would be in favor of legislation like Gillibrand's because in "insular" institutions like the military, it is sometimes easier for those in authority to sympathize with perpetrators. "People who find out about [a sexual assault] say, 'Do we want to ruin this guy's career? What about his family? He made a mistake.' Then sometimes people start to rally around the offender."

"It's strange," says Zenkus. "We don't seem to worry about the long-term effects on the career or life of someone who is accused of other crimes, like robbery or tax evasion. People need to stand up and say it's not OK."

Email: laneanderson@deseretnews.com

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