FORT BLISS, Texas (KVIA) -- A day after the U.S. Department of Defense released its annual report on sexual assault in the military, a survivor of military sexual trauma (MST) is speaking out.
The 24-page report for the 2022 fiscal year revealed a 1% increase in reported sexual assaults in the military, totaling 8,942. The report states the number of reported cases has almost tripled since 2010.
"The numbers that we have here now are not even a drop in the ocean," said Debó Wakefield, an MST survivor. "So many people that would want to come forward know that it would ruin their military career or as a civilian, it would impact their job and they wouldn't have a job and be able to feed their families."
Despite the numbers, the department says it is prioritizing sexual assault prevention in the military.
"The Department is making unprecedented investments in countering this problem, and has made significant progress in implementing key reforms, such as standing-up the Offices of Special Trial Counsel, building a dedicated and specialized workforce focused on preventing sexual assault, and improving the training and structure of sexual assault response personnel to empower survivors," said Elizabeth Foster, Executive Director of the Office of Force Resiliency.
Wakefield told ABC-7 that while she feels efforts to fight sexual assault are positive, many service members and veterans don't reach out for help because they don't want to have to relive the trauma they have already endured.
"I think that if they could get more professionals to come into the El Paso area, be they civilian status or the VA or even Fort Bliss at William Beaumont," said Wakefield. "Then I think more veterans would reach out and get help as long as they knew that the program was functioning and that the program was actually helping the veterans."
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-4673