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Study: Sex assault complaints in military have leveled off in past three years

By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Producer
updated 8:29 PM EDT, Fri April 13, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pentagon says the steady numbers show that victims have more confidence to report crimes
  • "Sexual assault has no place in his department," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says
  • Panetta plans to introduce new steps to combat sex assault

Washington (CNN) -- Reports of violent sexual crimes against U.S. troops have leveled off in the military since 2009, according to a new study released by the Pentagon on Friday.

In fiscal year 2011, 3,192 people reported sexual assault in the Department of Defense, amounting to roughly a 1% increase over the same period the year before. That number is slightly lower than the 3,230 reports made in 2009.

The Pentagon said it's a sign that victims, most of them female troops, have more confidence in the reporting system for sex crimes in the military.

The study also found that the number of troops who have been court-martialed for sex assault in the military has increased by 10% in the past year.

"Sexual assault has no place in this department. It is an affront to the basic American values we defend, and to the good honor of our service members and their families," Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said in a statement. "Since taking this office, I've made it one of my top priorities to do everything we can to reduce and prevent sexual assault, to make victims of sexual assault feel secure enough to report this crime without fear of retribution or harm to their career, and to hold the perpetrators appropriately accountable."

Panetta admitted more needs to be done to reduce violent sex crimes and said he will introduce next week plans for a new series of steps to combat sex assault.

Sex assault crimes include rape, aggravated sexual assault, wrongful sexual contact, non-consensual sodomy, abusive sexual contact, aggravated sexual contact or indecent assault, according to the military.

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