Fox News is reporting that reports of sexual assault by members of the military have doubled since the Pentagon launched an aggressive new program encouraging men and women in the military to report these incidents. Officials believe the sharp increase in reported assaults in 2013 is due to the new program rather than to an actual increase in the number of crimes committed.
According to the report, there were 3,374 incidents reported in 2012. In 2013, after the launch of the program, 5,061 reports were made, representing a 50 percent increase.
"A key finding in that survey was that, in sheer numbers, more men than women said they had been assaulted," Fox reports. "About 6.8 percent of women surveyed said they were assaulted and 1.2 percent of the men. But there are vastly more men in the military; by the raw numbers, a bit more than 12,000 women said they were assaulted, compared with nearly 14,000 men."
This number is significant as it could mean that since the elimination of the "don't ask don't tell" law that prohibited homosexuals from serving openly in the military, male-on-male sexual assaults are on the rise.
The military is fully aware of the problem with men sexually assaulting men in the military but says encouraging men to report these incidents remains a challenge.
"There is still a misperception that this is a women's issue and women's crime," said Nate Galbreath, the senior executive adviser for the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention office. "It's disheartening that we have such a differential between the genders and how they are choosing to report."
Officials say men are more reluctant to come forward because they think people will perceive them as being weak or question their sexual orientation.
This is why the military is trying to do more to raise awareness about these assaults and instill more confidence in men to come forward.
"Phone numbers and contact information for sexual assault prevention officers are plastered across military bases, including inside the doors of bathroom stalls," Fox reports. "And top military officers have traveled to bases around the world speaking out on the issue."
What is needed now is to get the message out that this is not just a woman's problem.
"It's not the damsel in distress; it's your fellow service member that might need you to step in," Galbreath said and encouraged troops to treat these incidents as just another example of how soldiers need to help each other just as they would on the battlefield.
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