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Sexual Assault Cases On the Rise in U.S. Military

Repeated attempts to force the Pentagon to get a handle on sexual crimes and misconduct face a new round of congressional scrutiny as the military branches report a 13 percent rise in sexual assault reports, the Associated Press reports. Concerned that the persistent problem is hurting recruiting, defense officials have argued that increased reports are a good sign, as people shed their reluctance to report offenses. But an anonymous survey points to a darker conclusion, showing a dramatic increase in service members saying they experienced unwanted sexual contact and a smaller percentage reporting offenses to authorities.

Much of the increase in reported incidents came from the Army, with a nearly 26 percent increase, the largest jump in nearly a decade. Army officials said they have responded with new programs that appear to be helping, including a training program in which soldiers act out dangerous situations and are coached on how to properly respond. Last year, lawmakers acted to take some prosecution authority out of the hands of commanders and instead use independent prosecutors. The latest numbers showing alarming increases follow two years of tiny increases in reported incidents. Because sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, the Defense Department began to do a confidential survey every two years to get a clearer picture of the problem. The 2018 survey found that more than 20,000 service members said they experienced some type of sexual assault, but only one-third of them filed a formal report. The latest report, expected to be publicly released Thursday, estimates that about 35,800 service members experienced some type of sexual assault in the previous year, based on the confidential survey. That means that only about one in every five service members reported an incident that happened in the previous year.


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