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Wednesday
Jan182012

here's some really discouraging math about sexual assault in the military

My coworkers, the esteemed 'msnbc.com staff and news services', published this article:

Panetta: Could be 19,000 military sex assaults each year

Bad news, obviously, and I was curious to see how this compares to America's ratio for sexual assault, so here's some math.

Panetta said 3,191 sex assault cases were reported in the military last year, but because so few victims come forward, he believes the real number is closer to 19,000 assaults.

In the active-duty military, there's around [PDF] 1.43 million people. Article doesn't mention reserves, so I'm going to exclude them for now. That'd be around another 850,000 as of 2009. Gonna keep an eye on the story to see if they specify later.

Per the DOJ's 2006-2010 study:

There is an average of 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.

That's not a number that includes unreported, but it's also not the number reported, because it's from the National Crime Victimization Survey, which extrapolates from census stats. Best I've got though. Finding sexual assault stats - on the day Wikipedia is down, no less - is challenging. It's also a disturbing process to pore through inefficient government sites, trying to find a number of people sexually assaulted in a year, but it's probably good for me. Stare rape culture in the face, fellow guys; you're one chromosome off from having it stare at your backside all day.

3,191 reported cases / 1,430,000 active-duty military personnel = .0022, or, if every single case only had one victim reporting, .2% of active-duty military reported that they were sexually assaulted last year.

Panetta's number:

19,000 / 1,430,000 active-duty military personnel = .0133, or 1%, and if the previous number was a little hard to place, this is more straightforward: the Secretary of Defense thinks 1 out of every 100 active-duty military personnel was sexually assaulted last year. [Minimum.]

And in the US at large?

207,754 victims/ 308,745,538 population = ... well, my computer calculator says 6.728971739828026e-4, which is 0.00067, or .07% of the US population is sexually assaulted every year. That figure's a lot more ballpark than the military ones.

If the Bureau of Justice's 1992-2000 study Rape and Sexual Assault: Reporting to Police and Medical Attention's conclusion that 60% of rapes/sexual assaults go unreported is still accurate, our ballpark number leaps from 207,754 to 519,385, and from .07% above to a .17% estimate, which is close to the amount of military who reported they were sexually assaulted last year.

I expected the numbers to be closer together. It's disheartening that you're apparently more likely to be sexually assaulted in the military than as a civilian.

Let me know if my math is wrong or if I missed some better sources. What's out there on the general population is far from ironclad, but I don't think the discouraging above bolded sentence can be disproven.

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