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In Violation of Law, Pentagon Not Allowing Some Anonymous Sexual Harassment Reports

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The US military concurred with a government watchdog that said it should set up anonymous reporting avenues for troops to report sexual harassment—channels that don’t currently exist within the Army and Marine Corps.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed in a report on Monday that the two branches of the armed forces are currently out of compliance with a 2013 law that mandated the creation of a framework to better respond to sexual harassment allegations within the ranks.

Section 579 of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) explicitly mandated that the military set up “mechanisms for reporting sexual harassment, including mechanisms for anonymous reporting.”

But as the GAO found, only the Air Force and the Navy have policies in place that satisfy the requirements. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the Army, and the Marine Corps do not.

“Without including anonymous reporting of sexual harassment complaints in DOD’s sexual harassment policies, the statutory requirement for anonymous reporting may be interpreted and applied inconsistently throughout the military services, or left unmet,” GAO stated.

The watchdog did note that the OSD is planning to issue a new policy in 2018, but that it is “too early to determine how the policy will address these issues.”

The Department of Defense, however, went on to concur with the oversight agency’s recommendations that it craft a new policy for the anonymous reporting of sexual harassment that’s consistent with the 2013 requirements.

According to data released in May, the armed forces saw a rise in sexual harassment and assault reports last year. There were 6,172 reported incidents in 2016, which is nearly double the 3,604 reported cases in 2012.

An anonymous survey of military members found that nearly 15,000 troops stated they experienced some sort of sexual assault last year. A majority of victims—58 percent—said they faced retaliation for reporting the attack.

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Sam Sacks worked on the Hill as a Congressional staffer, and as a writer and reporter since 2008. He’s been published in Hustler Magazine, which you may have seen but don’t want to admit.

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