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U.S. military sexual assault reports jumped 50 percent last year

By David Alexander and Patricia Zengerle

(Reuters) - Reported sexual assaults in the U.S. military jumped 50 percent last year, the Pentagon said on Thursday, and officials welcomed the spike as a sign that a high-level crackdown has made victims more confident their attackers will be prosecuted.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the jump in reported sexual assaults to 5,061 in the 2013 fiscal year from 3,374 the previous year, was "unprecedented."

He announced six new directives to expand the fight, including an alcohol policy review and an effort to encourage reporting by male victims. Men are thought to represent about half of the victims of military sexual assault but made up only 14 percent of the reports that were investigated.

"We believe victims are growing more confident in our system," Hagel told a Pentagon news conference. "Because these crimes are underreported, we took steps to increase reporting and that's what we're seeing."

Despite increased focus on the issue over the past year, the military has continued to face embarrassing incidents in which officers have been accused of tolerating sexual misconduct and even encouraging it, rather than fighting the problem.

Critics said the Pentagon's numbers on increased reporting demonstrated little improvement in the proportion of cases going to trial or the percentage of convictions.

A total 484 cases went to trial in the 2013 fiscal year that ended on September 30 and 370 people were convicted of an offense, the report said. That compared with 302 trials the previous year and 238 convictions.

"You can't tell me that only one in 10 cases are worthy of going to trial. That's like saying 90 percent of those who come forward are lying," Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, told Reuters in an interview.

Speier and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, have led a push to remove prosecution of sex crimes from the military chain of command and put it in the hands of specialized prosecutors. The effort was narrowly defeated earlier this year, but Thursday's report revived calls for its consideration.

"Today's report is deeply troubling and shows the scourge of sexual assaults has not been brought under control and our current military justice system remains broken," Gillibrand said in a statement.

Other lawmakers saw progress. Senator Claire McCaskill, who worked on legislation to develop a more forceful military response to the problem, said the increased reporting was encouraging.

"We know that the majority of survivors, both military and civilian, choose not to report their assaults," the Missouri Democrat, a former sex crimes prosecutor, said in a statement. "This data suggests that the number of brave men and women in uniform choosing to pursue justice is increasing."

Sexual assault is vastly underreported, and a separate military survey conducted in 2012 concluded there were some 26,000 sex crimes in the military that year, from rape to abusive sexual contact.

The survey is conducted every two years, so there was no survey with the annual report this year to use as a basis for projecting total sex crimes in the services.

The figures last year provoked outrage and led to a broad effort across the military to crack down on sex crimes and sexual misbehavior. But despite the push, a number of high-profile officers are being investigated for their actions.

The Navy said last week it was investigating allegations of misconduct by Captain Gregory McWherter, the former commander of the Blue Angels precision flight squadron. He was accused of allowing and sometimes encouraging "lewd speech, inappropriate comments, and sexually explicit humor," the Navy said.

Major General Michael Harrison also was recently disciplined for failing to take appropriate action in response to sexual assault allegations while commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan. He had been suspended from the post last June when the allegations were made.

Army General Martin Dempsey, the highest-ranking military officer, told defense bloggers earlier this month that the department had a limited window of opportunity to demonstrate it could deal with the sexual assault problem.

"If it occurs that after a period of very intense and renewed emphasis on this that we can't solve it, I'm not going to fight it being taken away from us," the military's press service quoted him as saying.

(Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid and David Gregorio)

Obama On Military Sexual Assault: 'We Need To Step Up Our Game'

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kcarthey May 01 2014 at 5:53 PM

I strongly doubt that there has been an increase in assaults but rather an increase in assaults REPORTED. Why? Because we finally have leadership over the military both at the Executive and Congressional levels who are doing something about it. As long as a group feels there is no hope or that nothing is going to be done, they will remain subjegated and say nothing. Once they realze there is support and hope they band together and emerge. This is true about all subjegated groups.

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2 replies
greer701as kcarthey May 01 2014 at 6:31 PM

I agree...its not necessarily an increase in assaults but as you said an increase in REPORTING. The stats don't say the number of restricted vs unrestricted reporting and this is a key piece of data. Unrestricted reporting means that they will investigate and could prosecute. Restricted reporting means that the victim is only seeking medical or mental health support and they are not required to disclose who the perp is. This is fairly new and only recently really understood as an option by the troops. So, my guess would be that restricted reporting increased so that the member can get help with MST (Military Sexual Trama) a form of PTSD. This also removes the fear of reprisal from the equasion.

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JIM kcarthey May 01 2014 at 6:46 PM

Are you a comedian, that was pretty funny.

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DW May 02 2014 at 1:19 AM

we did not have the opposite sex living in our barracks

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Gigi May 01 2014 at 11:44 PM

Too bad it is not more men being assulted, something might be done

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1 reply
not2bepc1 Gigi May 02 2014 at 3:09 AM

Really ,Try any Prison.

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jaybeach8 May 01 2014 at 7:12 PM

Two things: Women and gays in the military.

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2 replies
Walt jaybeach8 May 01 2014 at 7:36 PM

NEVER FAILS THE ONE'S THAT PRETEND TO BE GREAT AMERICANS, AND SHOW THE FLAG, ARE ALWAYS THE ONE'S THAT SHOW THEIR TRUE COLOR'S OF HATE, AND STUPIDITY...KEEP ON KEEPING ON IT IS YOUR M.O. TO SHOW THAT YOUR BRAIN IS DISCONNECTED.

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jejozi jaybeach8 May 01 2014 at 11:51 PM

Mmmmm, no, it's the men who are led by their d..k. Quit trying to pass the responsibility.

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lawlady50 May 02 2014 at 2:58 AM

It never sizes to amaze me the spin they can put on things.

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BUZO JOE May 02 2014 at 12:18 AM

The military hasn't heard of the Golem effect. We are harangued monthly with extensive sexual assault and harassment training, yet the problem gets worse. The reality is when you treat people like they are criminals; if you treat men like they are animals who must control their primal urges a certain percent will be 'inspired' to act accordingly.

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johnj1314 May 01 2014 at 8:20 PM

The only reason why the congress was able to pass allowing women to be in combat positions and now openly game people is because so few of our members of congress and the senate and now presidents ever served in the military. In the 60's and 70's there were few who had not served. That is why this insanity has happened. Who is going to inspire men in combat Patton riding a tank or Nancy Pelosi? get the picture. The only way to stop this sexual assault is to get rid of all the real men and replace them with guys like Pee Wee Herman and Woody Allen.

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scotch43 johnj1314 May 02 2014 at 12:01 AM

john...you should stop now...you're bordering on downright silly....you do realize that the majority of the people NOW serving in congress were of military age in the 60's and 70's....btw...the only real way to get rid of sexual assault is to give the rapist life in prison or maybe the death penalty...my father, brothers, uncles and grandfathers all served in the military...they would never agree that to be a REAL man you have to be a rapist....a real man doesn't need to rape...a real man does fine in the mating game...and you sully their service...something they wouldn't allow you to get away with if you had served with them....you'd be shinning their shoes....and you wouldn't dare assault a fellow officer in their presence....

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johnj1314 May 01 2014 at 8:13 PM

Putting women in combat military units has destroyed what has been called male bonding. Something that is absolutely vital for men in combat situations. Men do NOT bond with women at all. Let one woman walk in the room full of men and no matter what she looks like and the atmosphere completely changes. If you watch, all the men start acting like peacocks to show off their feathers to get her attention. Of course the woman eat this up and play men off against each other. Anybody who argues for this current arrangement who was not in the military before this change and then also in after women became a part are speaking 100% from emotion and have no clue as to what they are talking about. One of America's greatest weakness is that we will not admit to making a mistake and will do anything to avoid having to say so. This is one thing we need to turn the clock back from. There is no right to fight or be in the military, none. the military is not a place for social experimentation

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Tuhloola11 May 01 2014 at 5:58 PM

Wait for it.....there will be some idiots who blame it on women being in the military. No doubt in my mind, it's coming !

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2 replies
Scott Tuhloola11 May 01 2014 at 6:32 PM

It's not only coming, but here it is. I think, if there were no women side by side with men in the military, there would be few opportunities available in that arena for sexual assault. The logic is cogent to me. Women in the military fighting alongside men is simply another way that leftists have tinkered with established wisdom. (Sexual assault is not the only problem that issues from this propinquity -- flirting, amorous relations, and a resultant lack of sound military judgment in combat -- are also problems.) A damned policy does not suddenly change human nature. Wise up!

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fourjwinds Tuhloola11 May 01 2014 at 6:50 PM

Men are always lusting after women. It is just a matter of opportunity. So, shall we have an all male military? What's the answer Tuhloola11?

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johnj1314 May 01 2014 at 8:01 PM

This should not surprise anyone. When you put a gun in the hands of a man you put his testrostum in overdrive and then put some woman in a position of authority in their face any you have a prescription for disaster. I was a departmental leading chief on one co-ed manned ship responsible for over 500 people and 90% of my time in management was taken up in love affairs, love triangles, sexual politics, charges of sexual harasement which always had a different definition for men than women. The opening up of all positions of women in the military was monstrous mistake of unbelievable proportions. Women have brought nothing but problems to the military equation and have given almost nothing in return. To make matters worse the PC crowd is shuving women down our men's throat at every turn. Women are the week link in the military and simply do not belong in their non-traditional roles. There is a place for women in the military but not where they are being used now.

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1 reply
jejozi johnj1314 May 01 2014 at 11:43 PM

Functional illiteracy at its finest. Thanks for your service.

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