A report released this week by the Pentagon shows that reported sexual assaults in the military increased in 2005 by 40 percent over 2004. According to the report, much of the increase can be attributed to new reporting guidelines that were put in place following widespread criticism of the military’s handling of sexual assault cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait, as well as in the military service academies. A total of 2,374 sexual assaults were reported in 2005 in which either the victim or the alleged perpetrator was a member of the military. Of these cases, 274 resulted in punitive action against the alleged perpetrator and 352 were still being processed, according to the report.
The new reporting guidelines allow victims of sexual assault to report attacks and receive counseling and other services anonymously, according to the Washington Post. Previously, a victim could only receive help if she or he allowed an investigation to be initiated, which were not confidential, opening the victim up to potential retaliation or harassment.
“[Sexual assault] is the most underreported crime in our society,” Roger Kaplan, a Pentagon spokesperson, said, according to the Associated Press. “The key, at least in the military, is to make it less. We want victims to have treatment. And the more who come forward, the better chance we have of taking action and getting the offenders off the streets.”