Risk of rape in the Army greater than for civilians

December 30, 1992|By Orange County Register

A woman serving in the U.S. Army is 50 percent more likely t be raped than a civilian, newly released military records show.

From 1987 to 1991, 484 female soldiers were raped while on active duty, according to Department of the Army records released after a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Army rate of 129 rape cases per 100,000 population in 1990 exceeds nationwide statistics for the same year compiled by the FBI of 80 confirmed rape cases per 100,000 women. The 1990 statistics are the latest compatible statistics available.

The records are the first accounting by any of the four services -- Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines -- of servicewomen assaulted while on duty. The other branches have said they have no such records.

Women's rights advocates said the records -- and the silence from the other services -- show that President-elect Bill Clinton and Defense Secretary-designate Les Aspin should immediately after the inauguration order a complete accounting of servicewomen who have been sexually assaulted.

"Women should be safer in the Army than in the civilian world, not the other way around," said Diana Danis, an Army veteran who says she was raped while on active duty in the 1970s. She is executive director of the National Womens Veterans' Conference.

The Army defended its record, saying that commanders were being told to aggressively pursue rape cases and to step up education about sexual assault and harassment.

But Pentagon critics say the Army's numbers, if anything,

under-represent reality. They believe that fewer rapes are reported than occur because female soldiers fear that the male-dominated command structure will not take reports seriously. The Army disputes that assertion.

The Army records also reveal:

* Lower-ranking female soldiers are most often the target of rapes. Of the 484 confirmed rapes from 1987 and 1991, five victims were officers and 479 were enlisted personnel.

* Seven female soldiers were raped in the Persian Gulf while serving in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.

* Female soldiers were raped in overseas commands, including 175 in Germany, 33 in Korea, four in Japan and one in Korea.

Since 1987, the number of female Army soldiers who authorities confirmed were raped while serving on active duty has jumped from 72 in 1987 to 104 in 1991. Complete statistics for 1992 were not available.

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