Pentagon Undercounts and Ignores Military Sexual Assault in Africa

“Those numbers have made me ill. And I would imagine there are at least five times that number of assaults.”

A Pattern of Assault

“You see incomplete data, cases that aren’t tracked. You have missing information and reports that don’t seem to add up.”

Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

“They know that transparency and accuracy make them look worse.”

Military Leadership Failures

If you have information about sexual assault in the U.S. military, email Nick Turse via

In 2013, an investigation by Navy criminal investigators “revealed allegations of a history of sexually inappropriate comments and behavior” by an Air Force staff sergeant who harassed and touched female subordinates, including an instance in which he unzipped the blouse and forcibly spread the legs of a subordinate while she was on duty at a guard shack.

In March 2015, a soldier allegedly plied a 20-year-old specialist with more than the allowed two alcoholic drinks, followed her back to her quarters, and sexually assaulted her. For weeks, the soldier continued to harass the specialist, walking into her quarters uninvited as well as kissing and touching her. She said she went along with it for fear of upsetting their professional relationship but eventually reported the incident. The final report by Army investigators notes that the allegations “could not be substantiated or refuted,” and the case was closed.

In August 2015, a Navy chief yeoman reported that she was “hit, bit, and choked” as well as sexually assaulted by a U.S. Army staff sergeant.

In April 2016, a specialist with the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry said that while sitting outside her quarters to use the Wi-Fi, another soldier began chatting her up and invited her to his room. When she declined, the soldier grabbed her hand and began pulling her away, eventually lifting her up and carrying her to his quarters. There, he proceeded to kiss her and grope her and tried to pull down her pants. She was able to escape when the perpetrator’s roommate walked in. The perpetrator then walked back to the specialist’s quarters and tried to kiss her again, then took her hand and attempted to place it on his penis, according to criminal investigative files.

In June 2017, a Navy Exchange massage therapist said that a master-at-arms third class demanded “extra services” from her. She refused to perform any sexual acts and reported him. During the investigation, another massage therapist, a civilian, said the same man had groped her during a massage and also asked for “extra services.” After the massage therapists declined to provide further information, Navy investigators closed the case.

“Zero Data”

“In these deployed situations, there’s no oversight, and people feel like they can get away with it.”

“Women are regularly treated like they’re the problem. They aren’t cared for, because the system doesn’t operate properly.”

Photo: U.S. Marines/Dvids
Meeting the Enemy

2021-07-06 | Politics, Special Investigations, World | English |