The number of sexual assaults reported at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has increased the past four years, with 83 reported since 2013, the Department of Defense said Friday.
The Pentagon released the data for military installations around the world, including Wright-Patterson which is the largest single site-employer in Ohio with a workforce of about 27,000 employees.
The data, which does not include cases from this year, was disclosed as high-profile political and entertainment figures have been accused of sexual assault or harassment in recent weeks.
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The Defense Department report showed the number of reported incidents to a sexual assault response coordinator at that base. According to the Pentagon, it does not necessarily mean the incident took place on the installation where it was reported, or could have occurred before a service member joined the military.
Don Christensen, a retired Air Force chief prosecutor, said Friday in his more than two decades of military judicial experience the “vast majority” of reported assaults occurred at or near the installation where it was first recorded.
At Wright-Patterson, the numbers showed 19 incidents reported to a sexual assault coordinator in fiscal year 2013, 17 cases in both 2014 and 2015, and 30 cases in 2016, the data showed.
Air Force wide, the service branch reported 821 cases in 2013; 1,003 in 2014; 1,009 in 2015; and 1,043 in 2016, data shows.
Christensen, president of the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, said education to reduce sexual assault can be helpful, “but it’s not going to eliminate the problem and the inability to hold people accountable, which is really a problem here, (and) is thwarting their efforts to reduce sexual assault.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said in a statement he was briefed on the findings.
“Although the numbers for Wright-Patt are low in comparison to other places, they are still too high and show we have a long way to go to create a safe work environment in the military,” said Turner, chairman of the House Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus.
In a statement released Friday, Wright-Patterson said “effectively responding to sexual assaults is not only critical to the health, morale and welfare of our Airmen — civilian, officer and enlisted — but, ultimately essential to Air Force readiness.”
It added: “Respect for all is imperative and success of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program relies on all Airmen standing against those who would commit sexual assault and supporting those who have been victimized by these heinous acts. We are committed to providing support to anyone affected by sexual assault.”
The Pentagon categorizes sexual assaults into restricted and unrestricted categories. A restricted category means a victim can receive medical and mental health services, but there is no investigation of the alleged incident, Christensen said.
An unrestricted report allows an investigation to proceed.
Based on those categories, Wright-Patterson reported 12 unrestricted and seven restricted reports in 2013; 10 unrestricted and seven restricted reports in 2014; 11 unrestricted and six restricted reports in 2015; and 20 unrestricted and 10 restricted reports in 2016, according to the Defense Department.