The failure to address sexual assault in the military is costing the U.S. billions of dollars per year, a new study finds.
The fallout from military sexual assaults cost the U.S. $3.6 billion last year, according to a recent report from the RAND Corporation, an international research organization. The estimate is based on a calculation of the cost of medical and mental health services victims are likely to seek after an incident, as well as other "intangible costs."
The report also takes into account the number of unpaid work days military sexual assault victims are likely to take off as a result of their ordeal. Those missed earnings amount to a $104.5 million loss annually for the economy, the researchers found.
The findings add to an already growing sense of urgency surrounding military sexual assaults. President Obama said earlier this year that he has "no tolerance" for such assaults after a Pentagon report found that incidents had spiked 35 percent since 2010.
The same report estimated that as many as 26,000 members of the military were sexually assaulted last year. In response, the House of Representatives recently passed a provision that would provide whistleblower protection to victims.
Military sexual assaults are currently dealt with through the chain of command, a process that can result in retaliation from co-workers for the victims and may discourage from coming forward those within the military who know the perpetrator. Some Senators have proposed an amendment that would remove the process from the chain of command and put special military prosecutors in charge instead.