The US Military Doesn’t Want You to Know About Its Child Sexual Assault Epidemic

U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division form up for a ceremony to honor fallen service members at Kirkuk Regional Air Base/ Forward Operating Base Warrior, Iraq, April 7, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bradley A. Lail) (Released)

By Claire Bernish at


United States — A grim new study revealed a startling number of children in military families, hundreds each year, are sexually assaulted. Most often, this abuse occurs at the hands of enlisted male troops who are not related to their victims.

According to the study, there “were at least 1,584 substantiated cases of military dependents being sexually abused between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, according to the data. Enlisted service members sexually abused children in 840 cases. Family members of the victims accounted for the second largest category with 332 cases.

“Most of the enlisted offenders were males whose ranks ranged between E-4 and E-6. In the Marine Corps and Army, for example, those troops are corporals, sergeants, and staff sergeants. Officers were involved in 49 of the cases. The victims were overwhelmingly female.”

Those figures aren’t more exact because the military does not have a clear method in place to track perpetrators through its own justice system. Trial and prison records remain notoriously cloistered from public scrutiny, including the severity of the crimes and length of sentences. According to the report, for which the Department of Defense exclusively shared statistics with the Associated Press, there could be as many as 160 additional cases during the same time period if incidents involved a repeat offender or if a child was victimized more than once.

Also, the data “account only for cases involving military dependents, which are the only child victims” tracked by the Department of Defense’s Family Advocacy Program. In other words, children outside military families who are sexually assaulted by troops simply aren’t accounted for. This fact, in itself, creates enormous lingering doubts about the reasons for lack of tracking — and for the actuality of the victim count.

If the findings of an independent study commissioned by the Colombian government and reported by Colombia Reports are any indication, sexual assault by U.S. service members looks to be a prolonged, insidious, and highly problematic pattern. According to the study, at least 54 children were sexually abused by U.S. troops and contractors stationed there between 2003-2007 — though double that total appears likely.

Renan Vega of the Pedagogic University in Bogotá explained, “There exists abundant information about the sexual violence [committed with] absolute impunity thanks to the bilateral agreements and diplomatic immunity of United States officials.” Indeed, as with the AP study, the number of children sexually assaulted by military personnel could be far greater than what the official numbers attest. According to the Colombian report, no disciplinary or legal action was ever undertaken, so tracking the perpetrators is next to impossible.

But the of those cases that do reach trial, the numbers are no less than shocking. According to a previous study by the AP from November 2015, this apparent rampant child sexual assault issue among the troops is clearly evidenced; of the 61% confined in the military’s prison network for sex crimes, over half the cases involved children as victims.

A number of crucial questions are raised by these studies, from the number of victims to the inexplicable lack of means to track them or the perpetrators of such heinous crimes. Most imperatively, though — and most absurdly — why isn’t the United States military doing anything to address this virtual epidemic of child sexual assault?


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