U.S. military reports 2,688 sex assault claims in 2007

WASHINGTON - The U.S. military recorded 2,688 cases of sexual assault involving its staff last year, 60 percent of which were allegations of rape, a Department of Defense report said Friday.

The majority of the cases -- 72 percent -- involved military victims, the report covering the period from October 2006 to September 2007 said.

Investigations resulted in 181 courts martial, while 201 cases resulted in non-judicial punishment and 218 cases led to administrative action or discharges.

Some 1,040 completed probes resulted in no action, either due to insufficient evidence or because those responsible were civilians, foreigners or unidentified.

A total of 112 reports of sexual assault were reported among forces serving in Iraq, and 19 cases among those serving in Afghanistan.

Among complaints by military staff, where the alleged victim agreed to an outside criminal investigation, 868 (57 percent) reported rape, 91 forcible sodomy -- defined as anal or oral sex -- and 551 indecent assault.

Of the 705 cases where victims asked to remain anonymous and for no further action to be taken, 489 (69 percent) involved rape, 39 alleged forcible sodomy and 125 indecent assault.

The report also recorded allegations by civilians against members of the military. Of a total of 574 cases reported last year, 391 involved rape, 33 forcible sodomy and 150 indecent assault.

Direct comparisons cannot be made with last year's figures because the department has since changed the reporting period from the calendar year to the fiscal year. However, the report notes the figures have remained broadly stable.

"The Department of Defense remains committed to eliminating sexual assault from military service," it said, citing a "robust" prevention and response policy, improved reporting procedures, better training and increased care provision.

A Department of Defense survey also released Friday revealed that 34 percent of women on active duty and six percent of men have experienced sexual harrassment, while 6.8 percent of women and 1.8 percent of men experienced unwanted sexual contact.

The problem was more widespread among women serving in the army, as was the problem of sexual discrimination, while unwanted sexual advances among men were more common in the navy, the 2006 gender relations survey reveals.

The majority of respondents who said they had had unwanted sexual contact did not report it, mainly because they felt uncomfortable doing so.

However, the vast majority were aware of complaint procedures and most expected reports of sexual harassment to be taken seriously. Some 93 percent also said they had received training on the subject in the past year.

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