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Pentagon Sees 50% Rise in Reported Sexual Assaults in 2013

Angela Arellano, left, formerly of the U.S. Marines, and Nichole Bowen, formerly of the U.S. Army, talk about of sexual assault in the military on May 31, 2013 in Seattle. Both women identified themselves as being survivors of sexual assault during their time in military service.
The number of sexual assaults reported across the U.S. military rose by around 50 percent in the 2013 fiscal year compared with 2012, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The Pentagon said a review of preliminary data from the government's 2013 fiscal year, which began in October 2012, showed there were slightly more than 5,000 reports of sexual assault. The figure was first reported earlier on Friday by the Associated Press.

The data compares with a previously released estimate of a 46 percent increase in sexual assaults in the military during the first nine months of the year.

The latest data related to sexual assaults in the military came a week after President Barack Obama ordered U.S. military leaders to review the problem.

About 10 percent of the reports for the full fiscal year related to incidents that occurred prior to the victim entering military service, compared to about 4 percent of the 3,374 reports registered in fiscal year 2012, said Pentagon spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Catherine Wilkinson.

The fact that victims are willing to come forward, including increasingly about incidents that occurred prior to service, suggests growing confidence in the U.S. military's system to respond to such cases, Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said it was still too early to say how many of the sexual assaults reported by members of the military were blamed on fellow members of the military as many of the investigations were still ongoing.

Obama also signed into law this week a defense bill that aims to end the military's sexual assault crisis.

Sexual assault in the military is traditionally under-reported.

A study from the Pentagon in May found that estimated cases of unwanted sexual contact, a broader category, rose to 26,000 in 2012 from 19,000 in the previous survey, which helped spur demands for reform in Congress.

The reforms signed into law by Obama on Thursday strip commanders of their power to overturn sentences that result from court martials. They eliminate a five-year statute of limitations on reporting rape and sexual assault and establish minimum sentencing guidelines for military personnel found guilty of sex crimes.