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Reported sexual assaults across U.S. military spiked by 13% in 2021

Complaints of unwanted sexual contact surged by 13% in 2021, according to a new Defense Department document.

WASHINGTON — The military is reporting a 13% increase in reports of sexual assaults. It's a dramatic spike over the 1% increase recorded in 2020.

Nearly 3,600 military members said they experienced unwanted sexual contact. According to a new Defense Department report released Thursday, the Army saw a nearly 26% jump in reported incidents.

The Navy recorded a 9% increase. The Air Force saw an increase of little more than 2% and the Marine Corps just a little less than that.

In a news release, Elizabeth Foster, Executive Director of the Office of Force Resiliency said, "We are taking unprecedented action to prevent sexual assault and restore the trust of Service members in the military justice process."

Foster continued: “In addition to the reforms and investments already made in 2021 and 2022, the Department will continue to implement the recommendations of the Independent Review Commission.  These efforts include standing up a prevention workforce to prevent harmful behaviors and build climates of dignity and respect, establishing independent Offices of Special Trial Counsel to prosecute sexual assault and other named offenses, and professionalizing the sexual assault response workforce with enhanced skills and the independence required to support survivor recovery.” 

Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, also weighed in.

In the same release, he said, “Across the entire Department of Defense, we are building enduring cultural change on an unprecedented scale.  We are incorporating accountability and transparency into our response process while establishing a professionalized prevention workforce to reduce harmful behaviors and promote the well-being of our Service members.” 

Cisneros added: “Taken together, the efforts will set the right conditions to reduce and eliminate unwanted sexual contact, sexual assault, and sexual harassment in the Military Departments.” 

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