The Military’s Sexual Assault Crisis Cost the Taxpayer $3.6 Billion Last Year
Hey remember when William Kristol called the sexual assault crisis in the military a “pseudo-crisis?”
The failure to address sexual assault in the military is costing the U.S. billions of dollars per year, a new study finds.
The fallout from military sexual assaults cost the U.S. $3.6 billion last year, according to a recent report from the RAND Corporation, an international research organization. The estimate is based on a calculation of the cost of medical and mental health services victims are likely to seek after an incident, as well as other “intangible costs.”
The report also takes into account the number of unpaid work days military sexual assault victims are likely to take off as a result of their ordeal. Those missed earnings amount to a $104.5 million loss annually for the economy, the researchers found.
Awareness of sexual violence within the U.S. military has grown over the past decade. In the year following the 2005 implementation of a new reporting system within the U.S. Department of Defense, reports of military sexual assaults — which include rape, forcible sodomy, and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated or abusive — grew by 30 percent.
The new reporting system gives servicemembers the option of filing either unrestricted or restricted reports. When an unrestricted report is filed, it is provided to law enforcement for investigation, and the victim’s commander is notified. This was the only option available to victims prior to 2005. Under the new system, reports may be filed as restricted, meaning that they are kept strictly confidential; they are not released to commanding officers, and no investigation is launched. Both types of reports allow victims to record a complaint and to receive medical and other supportive services…
In fiscal year 2012, a total of 3,374 U.S. servicemembers formally reported that they had been victims of a sexual assault, representing about 0.2 percent of all servicemembers. But Pentagon officials believe that the total number of formal reports represents a mere fraction of all the assaults committed. In May 2013, the Pentagon released a study estimating, based on extrapolations from a survey of active-duty men and women, that 26,000 people in the military were sexually assaulted in fiscal year 2012.
Sexual assaults result in costs for society as well as consequences for the individual victims. In the civilian sector, the average immediate medical cost for those who seek care is $2,084, with victims paying about 30 percent out of pocket. In addition to these immediate costs, medical care utilization grows by 56 percent annually after an assault, and this increased utilization persists for at least three years following the event. About one-third of rape victims also seek mental health services, and for those who do, the average total cost is $978, with the victim bearing 34 percent of that cost.
In addition, victims lose an average of 8.1 paid work days and 13.5 unpaid household labor days per assault. Lost productivity at work and in domestic tasks has been estimated at 1.1 million days annually. Assuming mean daily earnings of $95, the loss to the economy is $104.5 million annually.
Beyond the tangible financial costs, there are intangible ones that drive the total costs of sexual assault higher. After an inflation adjustment, the total cost of each assault has been calculated to be $138,204 in 2012. Multiplying this amount by the U.S. Department of Defense estimate of disclosed and undisclosed cases of military sexual assault in 2012 suggests that their total cost to U.S. society in that year alone was on the order of $3.6 billion.
Sexual assault during military service may differ from civilian assaults in a number of important ways. The nature of military service and its emphasis on loyalty and community may result in servicemembers experiencing a heightened sense of shock and betrayal when a colleague perpetrates the offense. Although male servicemembers are less likely to report an incident than are female servicemembers, the greater proportion of men in the military overall means that over half of military sexual assault victims will be male. Finally, when a servicemember is assaulted from within the chain of command, he or she may have no route by which to escape the situation and may remain vulnerable to repeated assaults and other abuses. There could be a harmful influence on career trajectories, and retention might decline.