A sharp increase in sexual assault reports filed by members of the armed services is prompting a new debate about how to overhaul the military justice system, the Wall Street Journal reports. Some in the military and Congress said the increase reflects a growing recognition of the problem has overcome some victims’ reluctance to report crimes. Others contend the rising numbers could reflect increasing incidents and show more should be done to improve how the military handles sexual assaults.
More than 5,000 reports were filed in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, up from 3,375 in the previous fiscal year. Survey data in recent years have shown that many more service members anonymously report that they have been victims of sexual assault than file formal complaints. The National Defense Authorization Act, signed last week by President Obama, included changes designed to encourage victims to report sexual assault, including limiting commanders’ authority to overturn verdicts and providing more legal assistance to victims. The law didn’t include a provision that would have stripped commanders of the power to oversee prosecutions.