DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — The number of sexual assaults reported at an Ohio air base spiked in 2016, but officials say that does necessarily mean more assaults were occurring there.
The Department of Defense says 30 assaults were reported to authorities at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton in 2016 compared with 17 the previous year.
Officials say the statistic only indicates how many reports were received and may include assaults that happened off-base or even before the victim joined the military.
Wright-Patterson spokeswoman Marie Vanover tells the Dayton Daily News that makes it impossible to identify significant trends in the increase.
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Don Christensen, a retired Air Force chief prosecutor and head of the group Protect Our Defenders, said in his experience, the “vast majority” of assaults occurred at or near the installation where they were first reported.
Vanover says the base has put intervention programs in place since 2016 to encourage people to speak up when they witness something inappropriate.
“We’re dedicated to fostering an environment of respect by standing against anyone who commits sexual assault and supporting survivors of these horrible acts, whenever and wherever it has occurred,” she said.
Christensen says education and intervention efforts can help, but the inability to hold people accountable will thwart efforts to reduce sexual assault.
“Even in the rare cases where survivors report, 98 percent of the time their assailant is not convicted,” he said.
In 2016, the Pentagon estimated 32 percent of victims made a report.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican from Dayton and chairman of the House Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, said the numbers at Wright-Patterson are lower than other bases, but still too high. He said they show “we have a long way to go to create a safe work environment in the military.”
The Air Force as a whole saw a small increase in reports of assaults from 2015 to 2016, going from 1,009 to 1,043. In 2013, there were 821 reports.