WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo Counties) released the following statement about the Pentagon’s annual report on sexual assault in the military. The report determined that 20,300 servicemembers were sexually assaulted or raped in 2014 and there has been no significant improvement in sexual assault and harassment rates over the past five years.

“Another year has passed, and another 20,300 of the men and women who protect our country have been sexually assaulted. For all its talk, the numbers don’t lie: The Pentagon has failed to reduce the problem of military sexual assault.

“The truth is that the measures we have adopted did not work, and the perception and reality is that survivors still face a military justice system that is stacked against them. If we want to fix this problem, we must, once and for all, take these cases out of the chain of command.

“The prevalence of sexual assault in the military remains at 2010 levels. Meanwhile, retaliation is the norm. In 2014, nearly two-thirds of victims who came forward were harassed, mistreated, or saw their careers ruined, often by their own commanders. And instead of taking responsibility for these abuses, the Defense Department insists that the problem of retaliation is simply ‘perceived.’

“This is not a way to responsibly address the problem. It’s a way to blame the victims. In this chilling environment, it is no surprise that over three-quarters of victims never report an assault.

“This report is also a searing reminder of the need to take military sexual assault cases out of the chain of command. Nearly 60 percent of victims of sexual harassment were abused by someone in their chain of command, the very people they are told to trust. Meanwhile, the prosecution rate for sexual assault has actually dropped to its lowest level since 2011.

“This new data also discloses the disturbing fact that servicemembers are at higher risk of sexual violence while serving their country than while in the civilian world. Serving your country shouldn’t be a risk factor for sexual assault.

“This latest report should serve as a wake-up call. We must take steps to reform the military justice system and give our service members the justice system that they deserve.”