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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Director, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, Kaye Whitley and Senior Scientist, Defense Manpower Data Center, Rachel Lipari March 14, 2008

DoD Press Briefing with Kaye Whitley and Rachel Lipari

BRYAN WHITMAN (deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs): Well, good afternoon, and thank you for joining us. As you know, the topic this afternoon is the 2007 Sexual Assault and 2006 Gender Relations Survey. And today, to brief you on both of these, is Dr. Kaye Whitley, the director of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, and Rachel Lipari, a senior scientist in the Human Resource Strategic Assessment Program of the Defense Manpower Data Center, DMDC.

Mr. (sic) Whitley -- or Dr. Whitley's office, as required by law, has just completed its annual report on the sexual -- of sexual assault in the military for fiscal year 2007. Dr. Lipari played a key role in developing and analyzing and reporting out the 2006 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey, which is also part of the quadrennial cycle surveys required by law. They do have a significant amount of material to get through. It's -- so they have a presentation that they'd like to get through before taking your questions, but then they will entertain any questions that you have.

So with that, I think, Ms. Whitley, we'll start with you.

MS. WHITLEY: Thank you, Bryan.

Good afternoon. Today the department is going to release two reports. The first report is the fiscal year Department of Defense reports of sexual assault in the military. The second report is a survey that was conducted by the Defense Manpower Data Center, and it is Workplace and Gender Relations, a survey of active-duty members. We're going to both go through our briefings, and then hopefully at that time you can ask questions, which will connect the information.

On this slide we are required by the NDAA to report yearly on the number of sexual assaults in the military. Our program has -- is a three-pronged foundation. We focused on prevention, through education and training; we focused on the response to victims; and we also focus on system accountability. We believe our program is robust, and we are moving ahead.

Some of the things that I'd like to mention before we get to the numbers: that we have many, many ongoing initiatives. In 2007 we held a prevention summit, where we brought together our federal partners and civilian agencies who are experts in the subject, and we developed a prevention strategy. We will be implementing that in the upcoming year.

We also -- and the month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We hold events each year. This year, in 2008, because we are seeing, in both the study you will hear from Dr. Lipari and in our report, alcohol is sometimes involved in cases of sexual assault, so we're going to have a program that focuses on the intersection between sexual assault and alcohol.

In July of '08 we're going to hold a conference to further train our sexual assault response coordinators. We also have a project that is ongoing with the Pennsylvania Coalition against Rape. It's going to develop training materials that will work with rape crisis centers who work with our military victims.

We also assess the military service academies each year, and we will be going out and have already begun our program where we will travel to installations and assist programs with their policy.

We also -- to move into the data reporting, we're improving our data collection and reporting process. It's important to know that one of the biggest changes for the military was to offer two options for reporting for victims. We have both unrestricted and restricted reporting options. And those of you who have been working this issue probably already know the difference, but I would like to go over that very quickly. The unrestricted reporting option is what the department had always done. The victim comes forward, reports a sexual assault, they get all of the medical care and psychological support that they need, and an investigation would then ensue.

We felt that this -- that the investigation and the notification of the command may possibly be a barrier to reporting, so we removed that and we -- by offering a second option, which is restricted reporting, that way, victims can come forward, they can report the sexual assault, and it is confidential. The command is not notified who the individual is, although the command is notified that a sexual assault took place, and that person then gets all of the psychological care and medical assistance they need without an investigation.

I say that because we break our report down, and on Slide 5, you can see our total numbers for FY '07 are 2,688 total reports of sexual assault. Seven hundred and five were restricted reports, and when I see that number, I truly believe that that is 705 victims who would not have come forward and would not have gotten the help and assistance they needed.

On the next slide, you break down the unrestricted reports of sexual assaults, and it's important to note that the crime is broken down from indecent assault, sodomy, rape and attempts to commit any of these offenses. You can also see on this side the breakdown of service member victims and non-service member victims.

If you go to the next slide, that is our breakdown of restricted reports, and you can see them broken down by offense as well.

A lot of the questions (sic) we get asked is, as you know, if a person makes a restricted report, they can change their mind later if they want an investigation, and they can change to unrestricted. Of course, as far as the Department of Defense, we would prefer an unrestricted report, so that we could go after the offender. So we always like to keep track of the number of people who convert, and in the fiscal year '07, we had 102 changed to unrestricted.

On Slide 8, I point this out because we were cited in a recent civilian study about our anonymous forensic exam, and I think this speaks highly to our program and this is the beginning of our program becoming a benchmark for the nation.

On Slide 9, this is the number of investigations, and there are 2,714 total, and 1,955 completed. If you go to the dispositions, there were 2,212 offenders, or subjects, as they are referred to on this graphic. Of those, only 600 were cases in which the commander could take action.

And if you look below the 600, you can see that the actions that were taken were broken down by court-martial, non-judicial punishment and other administrative actions and discharges.

If you follow that chart down, more than a thousand could not be -- the commander could not take action for the reasons listed below. We still have 572 that are pending disposition. That is usually the case, because some of these reports were not made until the latter part of the year.

On slide 11, this summarizes my briefing today. This is the first year that we did fiscal year reporting. We did that because the UCMJ changed their definitions of sexual assault on October 1st, and we wanted to align our report with the new definitions.

Our programs are in place, and we are continuing our outreach and collaboration. At this time, I will turn the program over to Dr. Lipari, and then we will both be happy to answer questions that you have regarding both of these reports.

MS. LIPARI: This survey is also congressionally mandated. It's part of a quadrennial cycle of surveys of active duty and reserve component members on either sexual harassment or race/ethnic-related issues.

In 2006, we went out into the field and collected data from active duty members. In comparison to what Kaye did there's a -- her survey, her data goes back for about a year, and our data also goes back for a year. But they don't particularly overlap.

Indeed our data is collected from people thinking back about the past 12 months, beginning in September 2006 through -- June 2006 through September 2006. People are asked to look back for the past 12 months and tell us about their experiences.

So the farthest back they're recalling is till June 2005, and that is right about the time that Kaye's programs were just being stood up. We invited over 79,000 active duty members to take this survey. We had about a 30 percent response rate, with 23,000 members responding to our survey.

And on this slide here, you see the numbers of those people who experienced unwanted sexual contact. Now, unwanted sexual contact is the term we use to refer to the range of behaviors that are covered by the programs that Kaye oversees. That ranges all the way from unwanted sexual touching through a completed sexual assault, or rape.

And on the left, we used two different measures in this survey to collect this information. On the left, we have our trend measure, which does show that the numbers were 6.2 for women in 1995, went down to 2.7 in 2002 and are back up to 5.1 in 2006.

This was not a surprise for us because of the timing of the 2002 survey. We went out into the field in December of 2001, actually, and collected data for about three months, and when you think of that in terms of when September 11th occurred, we think that that may have had an impact on how people responded to the survey, that there may be that people were particularly more likely to not take into account experiences that they might have had or that we were in a window when people were actually trying to be nicer to each other. So this was not unexpected, but these are the numbers that we have.

Now we did introduce in 2006 a new baseline for measuring unwanted sexual contact. We did that in response to the revision of the UCMJ and also to provide Kaye more data that would give her more information to work from. And according to our new baseline measure, we had 6.8 percent of women and 1.8 percent of men experiencing unwanted sexual contact, but that measure, unlike our trend measure, specifically tried to incorporate that element of unwanted sexual touching. The trend measure we used was directly targeted -- it was a behavioral-based measure directly targeted at attempted and completed sexual assaults; whereas the new measure includes that component of unwanted sexual touching, completed assault and attempted assaults. So the numbers being a little bit higher and on your baseline were also to be expected.

The way that we'd ask our survey, we do ask them to kind of think back about the past 12 months. If they've had more than one experience, we ask them to focus in one experience and provide us details. And the first thing we ask is: Exactly what behavior did you experience?

And on this slide here, you see what -- the most serious experience that they had, the most serious type of behavior that they experienced. In dark blue, you have 38 percent of women and 39 percent of men saying that what they experienced was unwanted sexual touching, and that was as far as the event went. You have in the lighter blue 29 percent of women and 22 percent of men saying that they had an experience of attempted sexual assault. And then in teal, you have the number of women -- 21 percent of women and 13 percent of men who said that they experienced a completed sexual assault. The white are people who have chosen not to provide the specific behavior that they experienced, and a good number of them do not choose to provide that level of detail.

In addition to this question, asking exactly what behaviors they experienced, we also asked the members to tell us a little bit about their experience -- where did it happen, who was the offender, did they report it -- and we find that, for the most part, 40 percent of members said -- of women in the military said that their assault occurred in the workplace. But again, when you look at this, with 38 percent of it being unwanted touching, there is a little bit more to -- something to explain there.

In terms of who the offender was, for men, it tends to be a mix between both men and women who are the people who are the offenders. For women, it's almost exclusively men who are the offenders, in their experience.

Likewise when we asked about whether or not it was one person or if multiple people were involved, for women, it is almost exclusively a single offender. For men, there's a mix. They oftentimes have experiences that involve multiple offenders.

When we asked, who was that offender in relationship to you? The most common answer is saying it's a coworker. It tends to be someone that they know, someone that they're working with.

And then we also asked them whether or not, prior to the sexual assault, were they stalked or sexually harassed by the offender, prior to the assault? And we found that over half of both men and women were either stalked or harassed by the offender prior to the assault.

In terms of reporting, the overall reporting rate for women was 21 percent. For men, it was 22 percent. That's -- this is the first time we've collected this information, so we have no way to tell you whether that's a high rate or a low rate relative to previous years. We'll find them next time we go out in the field, whether or not that's a good thing or not.

But we do know, based on what we see in civilian literature, that sexual assault is an under-reported crime. And in particular, when you think about the way that we collect our data, because there is this component of unwanted sexual touching, people may also be not choosing to go the full reporting route, because it is a less egregious crime.

Indeed we ask those who do not report why they chose not to report. And most people say that they just didn't feel comfortable coming forward, and that's consistent with what we see in the civilian literature. Very few people, around 18 percent of women, said that they didn't come forward because they didn't know how. That was one of the least common reasons that they provided for why they choose not to report.

Noticing a component of this survey to measure sexual harassment in the active duty force. And here, this is a measure we've been using since 1995. It's developed by leading researchers in the field of sexual harassment who are based at the University of Illinois.

And again you see the same pattern where we had a high of 46 percent in 1995, have gone down to 24 percent in 2002 and are back up to 34 percent in 2006. But again we do think that the timing of our 2002 survey makes the data we got a little bit of an anomaly. It was lower than we would have expected.

And when we measure sexual harassment, that also represents a wide range of behaviors, from crude and offensive behavior, which is your basic locker room talk, unwanted sexual attention, which is being repeatedly asked for dates even though you've said no or asked to enter into a sexual relationship even though you've said no. And then your classic sexual coercion, your classic quid pro quo.

So this also represents a wide range of behaviors, and when we break down that by type of behavior, which is covered in detail on our full report, the most common behavior is that that least egregious stuff. That's the crude and offensive behavior.

We asked service members whether or not they'd been trained on issues related to sexual harassment and sexual assault in the 12 months prior to taking the survey, and we see overall 93 percent of women and 92 percent of men said that they have had training on sexual harassment in the past 12 months. And that's way up from 2002 and 1995. This is the first time we've included a measure specifically targeting sexual assault, but we did see 89 percent of men and women have experienced some training on sexual -- issues related to sexual assault.

And even among those who have not received training, we asked them whether or not the policies related to sexual assault and sexual harassment are out in the public, we see 80 percent of people say that those are.

These last two slides that we're going to show -- we asked service members to evaluate the military and the degree to which sexual harassment is a problem in the military, and then we asked them how much of it is a problem in the nation as a whole. And you see, in general, they're more positive about the climate in the military than they are in the nation.

We asked the same question in terms of sexual assault. Is there more of a problem in the military? Is it more a problem in the nation? And again, we're more positive about the military climate than we are in terms of the nation as a whole.

And now I would like to invite Kaye back up to entertain any questions.

Q I had a question on the gender-related survey. Back in 2002, when you released that report, what was the consensus for why there had been such a dip?

MS. LIPARI: In the 2002, we actually --

Q (Off mike) --

MS. LIPARI: We -- at that time, we thought it was likely to be an effect of 9/11. And we have been looking at the data. We actually looked at the data very seriously before we released it in 2002, and we looked at it again when we got our 2006 numbers, to confirm -- there's nothing that we can actually tease out of the data, but when you do look at what was going on, at the time, people were more positive in their assessments. They were more likely to just say the world was a better place right then, in their little corner. You know, relative to what was going on everywhere else, it seemed like things weren't as bad.

Q What's the take-away from both of these reports being issued concurrently? That assaults appear to be roughly the same, but harassment is up?

MS. WHITLEY: Well, there were some things the survey told us that we already knew, or it confirmed that alcohol is sometimes an issue with a sexual assault case. It told us that the profile of the offender is junior enlisted, and – the victim and the offender as well. It told us that -- we already knew that men believe sexual assault to be less of a problem than women, and we already know that sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes in society, and we believe it to be under-reported in the military as well.

So it confirmed a lot of things that we already knew and a lot of -- we already have some programs in place, but there were some surprises in the survey that would give us an indication of training -- of changing our training program -- for example, her statistics on the number of things that were happening at the workplace. Maybe we need to change our training to focus on the workplace as well as when guys go out on a three-day pass.

Q But did that surprise you? I mean, is workplace harassment common in -- is it relatively common in the civilian world as well?

MS. WHITLEY: The harassment didn't surprise us. The indecent touching in the workplace did.

Q What's the official definition for unwanted sexual contact or touching? You mention that, too. What -- I mean, I think I know, but --

MS. WHITLEY: We pulled the language very -- it actually very closely models what's in the UCMJ. The full survey item is included in the report, but basically we initially tell them what -- we say: Did you experience any of the following in the past 12 months? And then we list unwanted sexual touching, and we identify the parts of the body that in the UCMJ are identified as the sexual touching zones, and then we ask whether or not they had experienced any attempted or completed sexual intercourse against their will and without their consent, or anal or oral sex against their will and without their consent.

Q Does the report break out -- or why does it lump victims and perpetrators together?

MS. WHITLEY: Our report is an incident-based system, and that's why. It's the number of reported sexual assaults.

Q Did you break that number down in the reports?

MS. WHITLEY: We break them down, and the -- if you look at the restriction reports, that would be victims. If you look at the total reports, that's victims and offenders.

Q Uh-huh. But are the unrestricted broken out, so they can look at -- figure out how many of these incidents involved perpetrators or accused perpetrators, I should say, versus alleged victims?

MS. WHITLEY: I'm not sure what you're asking. Our report is that -- is -- it's incidents, the reports of incidents. And if you look in our report, you will see how it's broken down by both offenders and victims. Is that what you mean?

Q Yes. Thank you.

MS. WHITLEY: (Off mike.)

Q Does this report also cover -- both reports -- cover incidents in combat zones?

MS. WHITLEY: Yes. Well, ours does.

MS. LIPARI: We -- in our survey, we do ask people who have been sexually assaulted whether or not it occurred while they were deployed. Yes.

Q And do you have any statistics off-hand that show whether they're up or down in combat zones or any detail?

MS. LIPARI: From our survey we actually don't because this is the first time we've tried to collect this sort of information. We have nothing to compare it to, actually.

MS. : Ours is relatively the same in combat zones as in other -- at other installations.

Q (Off mike) -- included in the survey that we haven't --

MS. : Yes, it's in our report.

Q And the CENTCOM numbers that are broken out, they're included in the total?

MS. : Yes.

Q I can't quite understand slide 15.

MS. : Okay.

Q So -- okay, so 6.8 percent of all women -- all women in the military have experienced some situation of unwanted sexual contact.

MS. : Yes. And within that 6.8 this is how it breaks down.

Q It says 13 -- and it's 1.8 percent of men, and 13 percent of that 1.8 percent of men have experienced completed sexual inter -- I mean, is that --

MS. : That is what --

Q So 13 percent of this 1.8 percent of men are saying that they were raped? Is that what --

MS. : That they experienced either some form of unwanted sexual contact ranging -- well, yes, that they experienced a completed sexual assault.

Q Is that broken down by rank? I mean, are there --

MS. : Yes. In our report, we actually break down all the numbers by rank and by service.

Q So --

MS. : (Off mike) -- have it all.

Q So it explains -- of these men there's a percentage of -- how many of this 13 percent it was a superior officer, particularly a superior officer that --

MS. : We do provide as much detail as we can. For the men it's actually very difficult because even -- it does get to be very small numbers, and so we are not able to report some of them. But where we can, we tell you what we -- that sort of information, whether the -- one of the -- since there can be multiple offenders, we will tell you whether one or more of them was someone of higher rank.

Q And then it also breaks down -- you mentioned that it was often in the workplace. Are those numbers included in your survey as well, how many are in the workplace?

MS. : How many are in the workplace is in the survey results as well.

Q Can we ask about the sexual harassment rate, particularly as reported by women 2006, that 54 percent figure? How does that -- do you have any way of comparing that to general civilian workplace figures?

MS. : (Off mike) -- do not have a really good measure. The measure that we're using is a civilian -- was developed in the civilian work -- for civilian workplaces originally.

And we worked with the original researchers to convert it to the DOD rate, DOD measure.

But what we've found, working with these leading researchers in the field, is that although the measures are out there, people tend not to collect that information. Because it is just something that can be used if a trial does occur, if a complaint is raised. So your major companies don't tend to go around asking their employees whether or not they've been harassed. That is unique to the military to have that level of transparency.

Q (Off mike) -- population at large, academic research looking, you know, trying to sort of match roughly demographically --

MS. LIPARI: There is some research on what goes on in colleges and in academic environments. People do tend to look at that. But the demographic composition is so different, we do not like to compare them.

Q What percentage, going back to your question of the sexual assaults as a whole, do take place in combat zones? And do you, can you comment on whether you believe the large increases, the 20, 45 percent -- 25 percent and 40 percent increases over the past several years are attributed to the fact that troops are deployed? Because historically there are very large increases in sexual assaults amongst deployed troops.

MS. WHITLEY: Well, our report doesn't indicate that, but I'll have to defer to my colleague. We do have the actual numbers. I don't know if I have the percentage.

Do you have that, Dr. Soley, the numbers?

(Cross talk.)

Bring the numbers.

We have the numbers of sexual assaults in CENTCOM, which includes more than just Iraq and Afghanistan.

BONITA SOLEY (SAPRO): I didn't bring the numbers up with me. You'll have that in the report when it's posted on our website.

But we've never seen any kind of larger amount in CENTCOM than in the rest of the force or in the nation. It's about 1 percent approximately of all of our reports or less are in CENTCOM. And they've actually gone down a little bit this year. So although a lot -- it gets in the news a lot about the CENTCOM reports, we don't see that as an increased problem in our force.

Q And I'm sorry, ma'am, you are?

MS. SOLEY: I'm Dr. Bonita Soley. I'm senior analyst at SAPRO.

Q So the 1 percent is across the board in all active combat zones. Is that what you're saying?

MS. SOLEY: We’d only collect CENTCOM. We don't collect all the PACOM (sic). And that's the whole CENTCOM area. And when you look at the report when it comes out, we did give the numbers for Iraq and Afghanistan. And they're very, very small.

Q How come you just are looking at CENTCOM?

MS. SOLEY: Historically that's where most people like to focus, because that was the active war area. And so we continue to do that, to track that.

At some point, we may expand and look at the other PACOMs (sic).

Q Did you break it down by the individual services?

MS. SOLEY: No, I do not. I only report aggregate DOD data, which is a combination of all the services.

Q So overall, Dr. Soley, no spike in military sexual trauma, or --

MS. SOLEY: We don't do military sexual trauma. That's a VA term, and that includes sexual harassment and sexual assault as one big number. So we don't like to encourage any comparison of our numbers to that number.

Q But no spike, then, in harassment in the war zone --

MS. SOLEY: In sexual assault, in our realm, there were no spikes. The numbers went down slightly. I pretty much say they stayed the same, because it's very -- a small decrease. CENTCOM, there was no spike, no increase. Last year, we had 202, I believe, in CENTCOM. This year, it was less than that. And you'll see that in the report when it comes out.

Q If 80 percent of the members reported that sexual harassment and sexual assault policies were published, and 89 percent reported that they were trained, to what do you attribute the lack of a decrease in sexual assault and sexual harassment? Is it -- a revision of the training program needed? Is it command climate? Is it an increase in reports due to more education? And what do you attribute the lack of a drop --

MS. WHITLEY: I think, really, it's going to take time to see any significant changes, and we've just started collecting this data, so it's -- it will be very difficult to make any comment about any kind of trend. And as Dr. Soley said, pretty much it stayed the same. If we do a general comparison from the calendar year '06 and the fiscal year '07 -- I think, before we can answer questions like that, we have to have more time and collect more trend data.

Q A question about the sexual harassment issue --


Q -- about the larger category of what you're talking about, locker room language --


Q -- I was talking about this earlier with somebody, and said, "Oh, this is very murky water; it can be just a single offense, a comment that somebody might have taken the wrong way." So he was kind of dismissive about it. Is it possible that somebody could interpret that as harassment, that sort of --

MS. LIPARI: Absolutely, actually. The way that we measure that -- we ask people -- that is an example, being told sexual jokes that you find offensive. We ask you if you've experienced it, and with a response scale ranging from "never" to "very often." And then if you've experienced it at least once, we ask you whether or not you considered your experiences to be sexual harassment. So it's the combination of having experienced something and considering it sexual harassment to give us our overall rate. But one experience could be enough.

Q Does the survey include 2007 data that's not on this chart?

MS. LIPARI: No, with -- because of the quadrennial cycle, there is a gap in between anything -- between --

Q (Off mike) -- reporting the actual numbers here, and you've got fiscal year '07 -- 2,688 total reports on Slide 5 -- and then when you add up the unrestricted and restricted reports, it comes up to 2,790. But then you note below that, well, 102 are changed to unrestricted, so it looks as though you have subtracted the unrestricted from the total, but why would the total change just because of the change of classification?

MS. LIPARI: Actually, the 102 restricted reports that convert to unrestricted are already included in the unrestricted total. So you really need to add the 603 remaining restricted reports to the unrestricted reports to get the total amount. Otherwise, you would be double-counting those 102 that converted over.

Q Okay. So 2,688 is the correct number?

MS. LIPARI: Yes, sir.

Q Can you talk a little bit on Slide 10? It says 1,040 -- I guess just explain a little bit more about topic -- reasons commanders couldn't take action.

I mean, what does that mean? Does that mean these two were -- I see, obviously, unsubstantiated if there wasn't evidence. But if there's someone that was in a civilian court action, are they passed along to civilian authorities or what?

MS. LIPARI: If the offender was a civilian, then the military commander could not take any action on that person.

Q Even incidents of member of the military against a civilian employer?

MS. LIPARI: Could be. It absolutely could be. And these are the offenders, yes.

Q So this chart is saying that about 800 of the cases -- of 2,200 total cases, about 800 of them were found to be unsubstantiated?

MS. : That's correct.

MS. : And that is a multiple category. It could be unsubstantiated, unfounded. It could be -- we've had death of offender, and the commander couldn't take action, the victim recanted. I mean, there are a number of reasons that it can't go forward.

MS. : But we don't collect it broken down further than what you see here.

BRYAN WHITMAN: Well, thank you very much.

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