Wormuth: Army Hasn’t Stopped Assault and Harassment

Wormuth: Army Hasn’t Stopped Assault and Harassment

SecArmy Wormuth speaks
Photo by: Rod Lamey for AUSA

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth says her service has a “credibility gap” when it comes to addressing sexual assault and harassment and promised changes are on the way to help make it easier to report incidents.

The first woman to serve as Army secretary, Wormuth said in a CBS News interview that she’s watched military leaders go before Congress for a decade, promising they are “going to fix this problem,” but it persists. “So, I know there’s a credibility gap there, but we are working on it every single day,” she said in the interview that aired June 13.

“Every leader at every level is focused on this, cares about it and takes the problem seriously,” Wormuth said in the CBS News interview with Norah O’Donnell. She intends to sign the DoD-mandated Safe-to-Report Policy for the Army next month, adding that “we will be stronger as an Army if we have more female leaders.”

The Safe-to-Report Policy protects sexual assault victims from facing disciplinary action when they report an assault if minor misconduct, such as underage drinking, is discovered during the investigation, according to the Army.

A Government Accountability Office report published in May found “reports of sexual harassment and assault in the Army continue to rise.” Soldiers reported about 1,000 sexual harassment incidents and 2,500 assaults in fiscal year 2020, according to the report, which noted that "many additional incidents" were not reported, CBS News reported. 

Soldiers—both male and female—have been afraid to report sexual assault or harassment for fear of retaliation from their chain of command, Wormuth said during the interview, which took place at the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  

Wormuth, who became Army secretary in May 2021, said she has heard such complaints when speaking with soldiers but promised the Army is “making real strides” in showing soldiers that they can trust their chain of command “to look out for them.”

Early training on how to properly interact with others would benefit the Army’s youngest soldiers, she said.

“A lot of it, I think, is training our soldiers, many of whom are just 18 or 19 years old, about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable,” she said. “When they come into our Army, we need to be very clear about what’s OK and what's not OK.”