**Watch SASC Committee Hearing Video HERE**
Washington, DC – In today’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today demanded General James C. McConville, nominated to be Chief of Staff of the Army, to take the problem of sexual assault in the military seriously and take responsibility for dramatic increase in sexual assaults in the military last year. Gillibrand called out the Department of Defense’s latest report on sexual assault in the military, which shows there was an estimated 20,500 instances of sexual assault this fiscal year – an increase over the 14,900 estimated in the previous 2016 survey. The number of women in the military who experienced sexual assault increased by 50% from 8,600 in FY2016 to 13,000 in FY2018.
“I am tired of excuses. I am tired of statements from commanders that say “zero tolerance.” I am tired of the statement I get over and over from the chain of command: “We got this, ma’am. We got this.” You don’t have it. You’re failing us. The trajectories of every measurable are now going in the wrong direction…. We have to do better. And I expect you to show strong leadership on this. It is your responsibility to make sure the men and women who serve, who will sacrifice their lives for this country, are protected.”
Senator Gillibrand’s full remarks are below:
SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Hi, General McConville, how are you?
I just received a report today, which, we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about because it’s really important to me and the service members who will serve under you.
We just got the SAPRO report for this year, um, and the results of sexual violence in the military ranks, unfortunately continue to go up. We have a prevalence rate that went up by over 6,000 incidence rates — this is the Armed Services’ estimation of prevalence rate. We have data on numbers and I have the data for the Army for you, so you can know.
Your rate of sexual assault prevalence rates for women by services in the Army has gone up from 4.4 percent up to 5.8 percent. So that’s the percentage of women within the army who are sexually assaulted, who are sexually assaulted last year in the 2018 survey.
So you’re going in the wrong direction. Now, this is something that you must take responsibility for. Because it’s an issue of climate. The Department of Defense also put together an analysis of risk patterns as well as an analysis of the impact of climate on sexual assault leading factors for DOD members.
Okay, there’s been an increase overall for percentage of all members who experienced unhealthy climate.
This is your job. This is chain of command’s job. You set the tone. The people who report to you need to perform. If they don’t, you need to dismiss them, or make sure that they are punished appropriately.
Right now, 24% of women say they are experiencing an unhealthy climate today. That’s an increase. 6% of men are saying they experience an unhealthy climate. The odds of experiencing sexual assault when the climate is unhealthy, for women: 1 in 5. For men: 1 in 12.
So climate is your responsibility as the commander. You set the tone.
Now another chart that I want you to see, just so you know where these sexual assaults are happening — they tend to be lower in rank. The bright red area is where you see the most amount of sexual assault. It’s hitting highest at E-3’s.
So, chain of command is way up here. You’re O-6 and above. You are the convening authority. You are the ones who get to decide whether a case needs to go forward. So from your perspective, things might be perfect. It is lower down in the chain of command. And we have heard from survivors, the reason they don’t report as often as they could, is because they don’t believe the chain of command will have their back, because their assailant is typically higher up in the chain of command. So they don’t have the faith that the O-6 and above who are the convening authorities will actually have their back.
You need to study this as well.
Do you know who’s at the highest risk? Younger women. Highly at risk. If you are 17 to 20 years old, the risk today, given the increase – the odds of experiencing sexual assault is 1 in 8. One in eight. If you’re 21 to 24 years old, 1 in 11. 36-plus, for the oldest, more senior women? Still 1 in 56. So we have a huge problem on our hands.
Now, what angers me the most, General, is that for the last 25 years, every Secretary of Defense has told this body – told the American public: we have zero tolerance for sexual assault. I have been working with my colleagues for the past five years to change how we treat these crimes. To professionalize it. To make sure we have more senior prosecutors who have more experience in prosecuting a case.
Well the most disturbing fact that I’ve just received is, the percentage of cases that are moving forward, by O-6 or above decision-making, is going down. Equally as disturbing, the percentage of cases that are ending in conviction are going down.
I am tired of excuses. I am tired of statements from commanders that say, “zero tolerance.” I am tired of the statement I get over and over from the chain of command: “We got this, ma’am. We got this.” You don’t have it. You’re failing us. The trajectories of every measurable are now going in the wrong direction.
To have an increase – to have an estimated 20,000 cases – the statistics I’m looking at are as bad as they were when I started advocating for reforms. It is unconscionable. Past year prevalence of sexual assault for women in the military is 6.2 percent. Six years ago, when we started to raise this issue for you, to begin to address it, it was 6.1 percent.
We have to do better. And I expect you to show strong leadership on this. It is your responsibility to make sure the men and women who serve, who will sacrifice their lives for this country, are protected.
Their assailants are typically within the service. I find this to be your responsibility, General. Will you take this as seriously as you would, as if it was your daughter in that 17-to-20-year-old service member list. Will you take this as seriously if it was her?
GENERAL MCCONVILLE: Yes, Senator.
SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Thank you.