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Sexual assaults in military sharply rise, Pentagon reports

Published: Wednesday, May 8 2013 2:13 p.m. MDT

The Senate Armed Services Committee hears from top officials of the Air Force, Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley, left, and and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 7, 2013. Besides funding for next year's Pentagon budget, the Air Force is dealing with controversy over sexual assaults and how the military justice system handles it.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

Reported sexual assaults in the military increased 6 percent between 2011 and 2012, according to a New York Times report. "The military recorded only 3,374 sexual assault reports last year, up from 3,192 in 2011."

And while the increase in reported incidents isn't good, a new study from the Pentagon suggests a much bigger problem. Using anonymous surveys, the Pentagon study found that there were an estimated 26,000 instances of assault, leaving thousands unreported, according to a report from news website rt.com. "By comparison, 19,300 service members answered similarly in a 2010 study, suggesting the number of attacks has increased by one-third in just two years’ time."

In a Tuesday news conference, President Barack Obama condemned the sexual assault problem in the military, according to a New York Times reporter. “The bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this,” he said. “If we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged — period.”

The report comes just two days after an "officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programs for the Air Force was arrested … and charged with sexual battery," according to the New York Times.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh testified before senators at a Tuesday morning budget hearing about the report, according MSNBC.

Senators seemed unimpressed by explanations. A particularly impassioned plea to do better came from Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

“If the man in charge for the Air Force in preventing sexual assault is being alleged to having committed a sexual assault this weekend, obviously there’s a failing in training and understanding of what sexual assault is and how corrosive and damaging it is to good order and discipline, and how it is undermining the credibility of the greatest military force in the world,” MSNBC reported Gillibrand as saying. “This is not good enough.”

mwhite@deseretnews.com

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