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Military sexual assault cases up slightly in 2020, leaders vow to keep fighting

The number of cases in the Army and Marines is up. Navy and Air Force numbers are down.

WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military Fiscal Year 2020 shows a slight increase in the number of reported cases.

In total, there were 6,290 sexual assault reports by service members for incidents that occurred during military service last year.

"This is up by 1% from the 6,236 service members reports that we received in fiscal year '19," said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

The Army and Marine Corps saw slight increases in the number of reports, while the Navy and Air Force saw small decreases.

"This is an issue that has to be addressed, has to be addressed ASAP," said Sen. John Tester (D-Montana).

Military leaders on Tuesday told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense the services are trying.

"The elimination is paramount," said Vice Admiral John Mustin, commander of the Navy Reserve. "Every single incident is one too many."

Lieutenant General Richard Scobee, commander of the Air Force Reserve, also weighed in.

"This tears at the fabric of who we are as Department of Defense," he said. "And while we continue to make strides in supporting our victims of this scourge, we also recognize that sexual assault is a persistent challenge we've continued to have to work together and it's not easily beaten by any stretch."

Marine Corps Reserve Commander Lieutenant General David Bellon also testified.

"What we're trying to do with overall health and wellness of the force, particularly with sexual assault, is to continue to educate, continue to hold accountable those transgressors, and to increase the overall safety at stations and bases for all of our young people," he said.

Also testifying was Lieutenant General Jody Daniels, Army Reserve Commander.

She said: "We've had a lot of retraining on knowledge of dignity and respect across all of our formations and we will continue to do so."

The 2020 report was compiled while bases and commands grappled with COVID-19 restrictions.

The report goes on to say it's unclear what impact the pandemic had on the actual reporting of offenses.

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