AP NEWS

Sex assault reports at Fort Bragg continue to climb

March 15, 2019

Sex assault reports on Fort Bragg jumped by almost two-thirds between 2013 and 2016, according to the Department of Defense, reflecting a trend across U.S. military installations.

In 2013, 89 such cases were reported, but that figure was up to 146 by 2016, a 64 percent increase.

Even those numbers could be low. According to a data gathered through more than 170,000 surveys of active-duty service members collected by the RAND Corporation and released last year, there were an estimated 476 sex assaults involving men and another 361 involving women at Fort Bragg.

Fort Bragg ranks behind only Fort Hood in Texas in terms of the number of assaults in the RAND study, but the report ranks Fort Bragg far down the list as being a high-risk installation for sexual assault.

Yet, the numbers are so alarming that Deanne Gerdes, executive director of Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County, filed a lengthy report in January asking U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis to step in and help fix several problems at Fort Bragg.

Gerdes said Thursday that Tillis’ office has asked for some follow-up information but otherwise hasn’t responded to her request to look into how sexual assaults and rapes are handled on post.

Gerdes said she’s seen an increase in the number of soldiers who have been assaulted who are seeking help off post for various reasons.

“If they come forward on the installation and if their perpetrator is another soldier,” she said, “it seems like everybody gets involved. That victim has no privacy whatsoever.”

One soldier told WRAL News that she requested to be transferred from Fort Bragg after she was raped by a fellow soldier off post.

“The only thing I know right now is that this individual is still flagged, and he’s still in Fort Bragg,” she said. “He did not get punished for anything that he did.”

Fayetteville police dismissed charges in the case, citing a lack of evidence, but the military is still investigating.

Robert Louden, who directs Fort Bragg’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, or SHARP, said the numbers actually show the program is doing what it’s supposed to do.

“Although our reporting numbers are going up, that’s a positive, because our incidents are actually going down,” Louden said. “What we hope is that we get to a point of trust in the program to where any incident is reported.”

Both Rape Crisis (910-485-7273) and SHARP (910-584-4267) have hotlines for victims to seek help.