Service members in a unit established over the last year by the Marine Corps –to research how to better integrate women into combat roles — reported 7 sexual assaults.
Marines revealed the information about the assaults at Twentynine Palms back in March, while taking a survey conducted by the Naval Health Research Center.
They were asked whether they had been assaulted in the previous six months, “which at that point included time both in the unit and before it was formed in October 2014.”
The unit was known as the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, and included about 300 men and 100 women. It was formed in October 2014, and deactivated in July after the research was completed. Its members spent about four months training at Camp Lejeune, N.C., then carried out a simulated deployment to bases in California.
According to research documents, obtained by the Washington Post, one sexual assault was formally reported and six sexual assaults were reported anonymously. The report does not specify what occurred or whether men or women reported being assaulted.
The alleged assaults were detailed in a 103-page report released to the Post by researchers — Ellen Haring and Megan MacKenzie. Haring, is a reserve Army colonel and MacKenzie, a professor and author of a book on gender integration in the military.
A broad review is underway in the U.S. military to assess how women can be more fully integrated into ground combat units, which have long been closed to them.
“I never experienced, saw or heard of any sexual assault cases while I was with the unit,” said Sgt. Danielle Beck, a female anti-armor gunner in the task force. Beck said the task force treated sexual assault concerns like every other unit she’s been in. “It had training on sexual assault awareness and prevention, and representatives in each company of Marines who acted as sexual assault prevention and response officers,” Beck added.
Maj. Chris Devine, a Marine Corps spokesman, said in a statement that the service takes all allegations and acts of sexual assault very seriously. “This behavior — whether on duty, on liberty, or online — is not in keeping with our core values and is detrimental to victims and to unit cohesion and readiness.”
“Formal reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the GCE-ITF were lower than comparably sized units in the operating forces,” the report said. “In addition, there are no indications that rates of sexual harassment and sexual assault will rise following gender integration.”
The alleged assaults were reported during a multi-year effort to rein in sexual abuse in the military. There were over 6,000 reports of sexual assault in fiscal 2014, according to the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on the issue.
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