Zero Tolerance: The Defense Department’s Decades-Long Failure To End Sex Crimes In Uniform

Scandal after scandal, sexual predators in the military continue to harass and assault with impunity. Military brass pay lip service to eradicating the problem. Explore how the Defense Department has skirted accountability for nearly 40 years.

This ongoing project examines nearly four decades of military sexual trauma in the U.S. military in an effort to understand the broader context in which the Defense Department has allowed a culture of sexual harassment and abuse to continue. Using government documents, historical records, news of the time, and additional reporting, this timeline illustrates not just the scandals, but the public, legislative, and military responses, as well as the evolution of the Defense Department’s policy regarding sexual abuse.

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The military has repeatedly pledged to eliminate sexual harassment since 1981, possibly earlier. Some of these scandals have resulted in significant policy changes, including the formation of NCIS in response to the 1991 Tailhook scandal. Yet the problem remains.

In March 2017, more than 25 years after the Tailhook scandal, The War Horse published its Marines United investigation, uncovering the widespread nonconsensual photo sharing of nude images servicewomen throughout the Department of Defense. The story gathered international attention and helped to break the silence about sex crimes across society as a whole. In less than one year, tens of thousands of survivors of sexual violence—all genders and sexual orientations—have spoken out against infectious cultures of sexual violence, not just in the Defense and National Security communities, but across the media, entertainment, and the highest echelons of the U.S. Government.

We need your help to chronicle the history of military sexual trauma in the U.S. Armed Forces and how it’s been addressed by the U.S. Defense Department.

Contact or message us on Facebook with tips, articles, and documents about scandals you think should be in this history.

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Andrea Januta

Andrea Januta is a business reporter based in New York. She currently works at Reuters as a reporter and researcher for the Editor-in-Chief and the Investigations unit. She received her master's in journalism from Columbia and interned on the business desk at the Miami Herald in the summer of 2017.

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