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Bulk of women soldiers who report sexual assault report retaliation

A survey published this week showed that a large percentage of women soldiers who reported unwanted sexual advances said they faced retaliation. USA Today reporter Tom Vanden Brook joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    A survey published Friday showed that a large percentage of women soldiers who reported unwanted sexual advances said they faced retaliation.

    For more about this, we are joined from Washington by Tom Vanden Brook. He is a reporter for USA Today.

    So, what were the numbers? What were the women saying happened?

  • TOM VANDEN BROOK, USA Today:

    Well, Hari, of those reporting sexual assault in the military among the ranks, it was 62 percent of the women said that they had received some form of retaliation after making those reports.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, in — then, to put this in context, the number of reported cases has gone down, right?

  • TOM VANDEN BROOK:

    That’s right.

    I mean, the — well, actually, the prevalence of cases, so the ones that they estimate has gone down to about 20,000. And that is a 27 percent decrease from 2012.

    The actual folks coming forward and reporting, that has gone up in this year about 11 percent to 6,000 cases.

    The military perceives that to be progress, in that people feel comfortable enough to come forward and make a report of a sexual assault.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, the Pentagon did take steps over the last year to try to make it easier to report.

    But if women come forward through these easier channels, but still face retaliation at higher rates, would that have maybe a chilling effect?

  • TOM VANDEN BROOK:

    You would think so. I think that would be a major problem for them.

    Again, if you are talking about 6,000 reports and an estimate of 20,000 instances of this, you are still having less than a third of the people reporting the crime.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Are there any protections in place, like whistle-blower protections?

    If this was to happen in the private sector, and if you turned in your boss for illegal activities or sexual harassment, there are pretty tried-and-true ways where you could be protected.

    Is that also the case in the military?

  • TOM VANDEN BROOK:

    Well, sure, there are plenty of protections, but you still — some women — the majority of people reporting that they have been retaliated against, it is a — it’s a social problem.

    They are being excluded from activities, from parties, things that may seem somewhat trivial when I mention them, but not really, because, if you are excluded from this sort of thing, it can hurt your advancement.

    And it certainly can make the workplace hostile.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And there was also some information that came out in one of these reports about men who were — who had sort of harassment or sexual assault happen to them, but how they perceived it was very different. Explain that.

  • TOM VANDEN BROOK:

    That’s a big problem for them, Hari.

    They — they — a lot of the men don’t perceive what has happened to them, which is truly a sexual assault, as — as an assault or a crime.

    Most often, they view it as some sort of strange initiation right or harassment, so they are not reporting it. And that is a big issue for the military.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, what does the Pentagon do about all this?

  • TOM VANDEN BROOK:

    More and more education, I guess. That’s the main thing that they are trying to do, to get this across that these sorts of things are, you know, no longer acceptable, not that they ever really were.

    I talked a to a Marine officer this week who said, this is not acceptable in any — in any sense, but they need to drive the point home to their — their young soldiers and Marines.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Tom Vanden Brook of USA Today, thanks so much.

  • TOM VANDEN BROOK:

    Thank you, Hari.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Take an in-depth look at the findings of the Pentagon report on sexual assault in the military. Visit us online at PBS.org/NewsHour.

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