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Reported sexual assaults in the US military jumped by 50 per cent in 2013, according to a new study. Data obtained by AP shows there were more than 5,000 sexual assault reports in 2013. By contrast, there were 3,374 incidents reported in 2012.
Of the total reports in 2013, around 10 percent involved incidents that happened before the victim was officially in the military – up from 4 percent in 2012. The increase in cases has led military officials to suggest there is more confidence among service members in reporting incidents of sexual assault than in the past.

In May, the Pentagon admitted that sexual assault incidents have increased by 35 percent between 2010 and 2012, bringing the annual total to 26,000 cases of some type of unwanted sexual contact or sexual assault last year.

The Department of Veteran Affairs also found that 85,000 US veterans received medical treatment for sex abuse trauma last year, which indicates that the effects of assault have far-reaching consequences, both financially and emotionally.

According to the figures, reports across all branches of the military range from 45 percent in the Air Force to a high of 86 percent in the Marines. The Navy saw a 46 percent jump in reports, while the largest service, the Army, saw a 50 percent spike.

These assaults have prompted public debates and hearings in the US in which victims came forward to testify. Military service chiefs also admitted their failure to tackle the problem.

One even stated that sexual violence was “like a cancer” in the military.

Some measures have been undertaken by the US government to contain the problem. For example, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, passed by Congress , includes changes made to the reporting process and increased legal protections for those that come forward. The law also stops military commanders from being able to overturn jury convictions – as they had done in the past.

In addition, the new rules also demand a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case while any individual convicted of sexual assault will face a dishonorable discharge or immediate dismissal.

However, quite why these measures were not in place already is anyone’s guess.

It is also worth noting that the measures stop short of changing the current scheme in which military commanders are able to legislate assault reports, therefore preventing victims from having an independent route to reporting assault.

Another aspect of this which is often not talked about is the fact that a soldier or sailor who sexually assaults or rapes a servicewoman is likely to do the same in any country which is occupied by the US. Victims in war torn countries for instance, are particularly vulnerable and have even less room for redress or justice in situations where they are sexually assaulted by soldiers and military personnel.

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