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Pentagon addressing widespread problem of sexual assault in military

Sexual assault is not only a problem in society at large, but also in the military. That should not come as too much of a surprise, since those in the armed services are made of flesh and blood like the rest of us. What may come as a surprise is the extent of the problem.

According to a recent report by the Department of Defense, there were 3,191 reports of sexual assault last year, which is a one percent increase from 2010 and a 19 percent increase over the last five years. A Pentagon spokesman has said, however, that the number is likely closer to 19,000, as thousands of sexual abuse cases go unreported.

In its tallying of sexual assault incidents, the department includes cases of rape as well as other cases of wrongful sexual contact.

That estimate is based on a survey of active-duty personnel. Interestingly, another survey four years previously estimated that number to be around 34,000, meaning there may have been a significant decrease.

The military is currently working to address the problem, in part by requiring its sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates to receive nationally recognized certification. It will also be adopting a new policy that will extend confidential reporting and victim support services to spouses and dependants of military members.

Part of the reason for the increase in reports of sexual assault may be that more military members are aware of their rights and more readily report incident.

Hopefully the military can begin to address this problem more fully while ensuring that the rights of the accused are respected.

Source: Businessweek, "Military Sex-Assault Victims to Get More Help, Panetta Pledges," Viola Gienger, January 20, 2012.

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