AF report on sexual assault shows progress

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Air Force reports of sexual assault decreased slightly in fiscal year 2015, while reporting by male victims increased, according to the service’s annual report on sexual assault released May 5.

The report highlights an increase of more than 5 percent for both unrestricted and restricted reports of sexual assault from male victims.

“I think we’re making progress on sexual assault and heading in the right direction, but I’m certainly not satisfied that the work is done,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “We have to keep up the focus and pressure to make sure we are taking care of victims. We have to make sure more Airmen — male and female — feel comfortable reporting, which enables us to follow up appropriately in the justice system.”

A positive sign in the 2015 report is the increase in male reporting, which rose by 5.4 percent in unrestricted reports and 6.3 percent in restricted reports, said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody.

“Every victim of sexual assault responds differently and requires different support to become a strong survivor. We want Airmen to come forward and seek help, and it’s our job as leaders to instill confidence that they’ll receive the care and support they need,” Cody said. “We are absolutely committed to providing the best possible care and support to our Airmen, and I want our Airmen to know they can trust their leaders to support them when they file a report of sexual assault.”

Unlike the previous year’s report, the fiscal year 2015 report is not accompanied by data from the Workplace and Gender Relations Survey, which is only conducted every other year for the active-duty force. The Air Force uses the survey to measure the prevalence of sexual assault in the force.

The Air Force compares prevalence rates to reporting rates to evaluate Airmen’s confidence in coming forward to report sexual assault and receive support. Ideally, the service wants to eliminate the gap between prevalence of the crime and the number of reports received, then see both numbers come down to zero, said Col. Mark Ramsey, the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response operations director.

Without the survey data, it is difficult to determine if the decrease in reports this year is tied to a decrease in prevalence or another factor; so, a closer look will have to be taken at next year’s report to see if a trend can be identified, Ramsey said.

According to the report, the Air Force increased its focus on prevention efforts over the past year, hosting a summit to understand Airmen’s perspectives and implementing a five-year prevention strategy focused on eliminating sexual assault.

“As long as we have even one report of sexual assault in the Air Force, we have a problem,” Ramsey said. “We’re going to continue to draw on every resource at our disposal, and thankfully, we have the best resource in the world — American Airmen. I’m confident our Airmen will continue to drive change across our force and move us toward our goal of eliminating sexual assault.”