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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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Regis Steinkamp May 02 2014 at 9:17 AM

What a joke! Joe Biden said yesterday that the Government was going to give US colleges that are having problems with the same issue some assistance and information on how to address this problem. This is absolutely humorous in light of the fact that the US Military has the biggest problem with sexual crimes against Women & Men! I would not be taking any advice or guidance from a government that cannot fix it's own problems (-:

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Raven's Nest Regis Steinkamp May 02 2014 at 10:59 AM

Apples and oranges. first, the military has the responsibility not to cover up sexual assault, no matter the gender of the victim.

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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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john.dean54 May 02 2014 at 10:39 AM

What the f*** is wrong with US. If you want a professional army, then treat the troops as they should be treated. If they are assualted by ANYONE, then that person or persons have attacked America, from enlisted to generals. No exceptions, if someone is putting their life on the line for me, I can at least protect them form the ranks around them.

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Richard C. May 02 2014 at 10:29 AM

When the military allows its higher ranking officers playing their 'sex games, and getting away with it as SOP, and going after the common soldier, it 'only' covers their own devient behavior. Not to say, that lower ranking enlisted men should be allows such conduct. But, it has to stop at the top command level, and filter down to this type of conduct is 'Unbecoming', and not tolerated, no matter what your rank. If they are to be accountable, then make it so. I served my country, and 2 tours in Combat. I never seen it, and never heard of it, and I didn't have my 'head in the sand'. Doesn't mean it wasn't going on, but don't 'Class' all soldiers with this stigma! If the military wants to clean its own house, than do it! NO specical treatment, end of story!! Because the 'Chain-of-Command' runs down hill, those above should be held at their highest, to remove this 'SEX' problem. Hopefull, the incidents of 'Repoting', will be a paramount issue amoung our servicemen & women.....

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BUZO JOE Richard C. May 02 2014 at 10:48 AM

Richard, I serve as well. And I can tell you the military is only making it worse. Men are basically under going a sort of brainwashing - "I have a demon inside, I must repress my urges to act out heterosexually on the unwilling, and the unwilling are everywhere, from the drunk girl who flirts with me at the bar to the drunk spouse at home who's feeling frisky". Richard, they've taken the noble cause of fighting real sexual assault and blended it with so much BS that the message has been lost and a generation of heterosexual service men have been convinced of their deviant nature.

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acaceca BUZO JOE May 02 2014 at 10:59 AM

Buzo - you are correct sir. That's the way it is now - blended with so much BS - perfect description of obama and his thug administration - fire them all next time around

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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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ronald1216 May 02 2014 at 3:04 AM

its about they tell women sexuall harassment and assalt are againts the law for men or women

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Hello Sean ;) May 02 2014 at 9:14 AM

I NOTICE THEY NEGLECT TO TELL THE SEX OF THE REPORTERS OR THE ALEDGED PERPS. MY UNDERSTANDING IS THAT THE REASON FOR THE JUMP IS THE INCREASED SEXUAL ASSAULTS ON MALE SOLDIERS, SAILORS, AIRMEN, AND MARINES. THESE ASSAULTS USED TO NOT BE REPORTED BECAUSE OF THE ANTI-GAY POLICIES OF THE MILITARY. NOW THAT GAYS ARE OPENLY WELCOMED IT IS NOT SURPRISING TO SEE THESE TYPES OF REPORTS CLIMB.

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Raven's Nest Hello Sean ;) May 02 2014 at 11:00 AM

So ALL gays are rapists? Where do you get "your" data?

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deedeeace May 02 2014 at 5:46 AM

The United States has caused this problem itself. It permits women and men to serve together and it permits openly homosexuals to serve in the military. It does not work. Men should be seperated from women and openly homosexual men and women should not be permitted to serve in the military. It does not work. It cannot work. It will not work. It is not normal to expect that it will work. We keep pushing this agenda of total integration of sexes, sexual orientation but it simply does not work. If we keep doing these things and we see that they do not work then these things are the work of the Lord of the Air. If it does not make sense it is not good. If a situation defies reason it is not good and it is the work of the Father of Lies.

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2 replies
hoodspark2 deedeeace May 02 2014 at 6:12 AM

YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!! We used to be the home of the brave we're becoming the home of the weak and and stupid, our commander and chief has the whole world laughing at us! The road to peace is through the show of strength,........not stupid!

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1 reply
deedeeace hoodspark2 May 02 2014 at 10:50 AM

We will never be a great nation again. It is not only the commander in chief, it is congress and all those who seek to redefine that which is sacred and that which works. We are told this alternative works and the other alternative works and they do not. We are being socially re-engineered into oblivion. I know it. You know. Many here know it. However, we sit back and take it. We do not take any action steps while those with the new social agenda are in the forefront of this devastating change threating our freedoms and our very existence as a nation and a people.

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Raven's Nest deedeeace May 02 2014 at 11:14 AM

You, as well.

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omrgncc May 02 2014 at 8:02 AM

I am so furious over this topic. I know someone who was gang rapped by guys in the military. hope our paths cross one day.

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1 reply
Raven's Nest omrgncc May 02 2014 at 11:11 AM

Spot on! Stick with and stay the fight!

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welcom szepi May 02 2014 at 8:09 AM

Military is for men Keep the girl out of military.

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1 reply
savannahswithgod welcom szepi May 02 2014 at 9:11 AM

I disagree, worked with women on an assembly line. Think they could take that assembly approach and the speed of it into killing and maiming better than men. The 2 drawbacks would be stamina and maybe the emotions of killing and killing.

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