The number of reported sexual assaults in the military increased by almost 40 percent last year, although the spike might be due to new Pentagon programs that make reporting assault easier and more confidential for victims, according to a Defense Department report reported by the Baltimore Sun. There were 2,374 reported sexual assaults involving military service members last year, up 674 from 2004, when the Defense Department began tallying them under congressional mandate.
About half the increase arose from a new policy that permits sexual assault victims to report an incident without prompting a criminal investigation, which allows them to take advantage of medical and counseling opportunities. The military received 435 “restricted” reports beginning June 14, although 108 of those were subsequently changed at the victims’ request to “unrestricted reports,” which are investigated by authorities. One official said the numbers are likely to continue increasing, not because of an increase in assaults, but because programs to encourage reporting are working.