Although the U.S. military population has shrunk by thousands, the number of reported cases of sexual assault within the military dropped by only 1 percent last year.
The Pentagon's annual report on sexual assault in the military, released Thursday, showed that service members continued to report such incidents at a high rate.
There were 6,083 total reports of sexual assault in 2015, although some incidents occurred in prior years. Service members filed 5,240 reports; of those victims, 504 reported alleged incidents that occurred before they entered into military service.
Major General Camille Nichols, director of the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention and response office, said the number of reports per thousand service members remained the same.
“As you know we have a much smaller force than we had last year,” she said.
Military officials said nearly 20 percent of the reports were from military men.
“Still, men remain less likely to report crime than women. Encouraging their involvement in prevention and reporting efforts remains a high focus area for us. … We do continue and encourage and have massive efforts across services to get people to come forward,” Nichols said.
Military officials said reporting the crime is essential to the branches’ ability to provide services for survivors and hold offenders accountable.
Allegations of inappropriate behavior must be treated with the “utmost seriousness,” Nichols said.
The report called for creation of a sexual assault prevention plan of action; the increase of reporting through leadership engagement; and creation of a plan to address male victimization.
Despite the substantial increase in reporting over the past 10 years, the report estimated, a significant number of sexual assaults go unreported. Some victims may choose to cope in other private ways.
“We stay committed to eliminate these crimes from our ranks,” Nichols said.