U.S. Military reports of sexual assault up 50 percent
A Department of Defense report provided to Congress on May 1 shows that reports of sexual assaults in the military were up 50 percent in fiscal year 2013.
The most recent Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military shows that there were 5,061 sexual assault reports last fiscal year, compared to 3,374 reports in fiscal year 2012.
A sexual assault can range from unwanted touching to rape, according to military definitions.
Military officials attributed the rise in reports to the Department's efforts to encourage victims of assault to come forward.
"There is no indication that this increase in reporting constitutes an increase in crime," the Department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) Director, Major General Jeffrey Snow told the Associated Press.
"We assess that this unprecedented increase is consistent with a growing confidence in the response systems."
Since 2012, the military has promoted initiatives to raise sexual assault awareness.
Information on how to contact a sexual assault prevention officer is distributed on military bases, and top military officials travel the world discussing the issue.
Although progress has been made, the Department is dissatisfied with the continued low number of male victims who report being assaulted. About 14 percent of the victims in the reported attacks were male.
Defense officials stated that male victims may be worried that a sexual assault calls their sexual orientation into question, or brands them as being physically weak.
"There is still a misperception that this is a women's issue and women's crime," SAPRO Senior Executive Advisor Nate Galbreath told the Associated Press.
"It's disheartening that we have such a differential between the genders and how they are choosing to report."
He stated that efforts will be made to change those perceptions.
According to SAPRO's website, the annual sexual assault report is used to change policies, training, and victim care in the Department of Defense and other service branches.