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U.S. Army: Sex Crimes By Soldiers Up 97 Percent In Five Years

Army Sex Crimes

First Posted: 01/20/12 02:49 PM ET Updated: 01/20/12 03:20 PM ET

Military leaders vowed this week to curb sexual assaults by and against U.S. soldiers after the release of a new report revealing that violent sex crimes committed by Army personnel nearly doubled since 2006. The majority of reported sex crimes occurred on U.S. soil, the Army said.

A U.S soldier committed a violent sex crime every six hours and 40 minutes in 2011, a rate far above that of the general population, the report found.

"This is unacceptable. We have zero tolerance for this," Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, said at a press conference Thursday. "Army leaders take sexual assault seriously."

Chiarelli said the Army was confronting the problem by stepping up surveillance of barracks and cracking down on drug and alcohol abuse, a key factor in sexual assault.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also addressed the issue of sexual abuse within the military this week, announcing that the Pentagon was creating a database to track offenders and would provide increased funding to train sex crime investigators.

"Sexual assault has no place in this department," Panetta said in a press briefing on Wednesday. "It is a stain on the good honor of the great majority of our troops."

Nearly 3,200 sexual assaults were reported by service members in 2011, according to Panetta. But he said the military's actual estimate was closer to 19,000 because such assaults are "a very underreported crime."

Panetta added that steps were also being taken to increase reporting of sex crimes by military personnel, such as allowing victims who report an assault the option to rapidly transfer from their unit to protect them from harassment and other retaliation.

The rise in violent sex crimes was accompanied by a similar but not as pronounced rise in child abuse and domestic violence crimes involving Army personnel. Child abuse cases rose 43 percent since 2006, while domestic abuse increased more than 30 percent. Alcohol-related offenses, meanwhile, rose by 54 percent.

The rise in abuse cases can be partly attributed to the stress on soldiers of multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, now America's longest-running war, the Army report said.

A person diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder "is three times more likely to participate in some kind of partner aggression," Chiarelli said.

"That is why it is so critical to eliminate the stigma [associated with post-traumatic stress disorder]," he said, "and get people in for treatment for their alcohol problem, their drug abuse problem, prescription drug problem, or anger-management problems, spouse abuse and child abuse."

Yet even as the Army recorded an overall rise in crime of almost 15 percent, it also found a decrease in court-martials and non-judicial punishment.

The report called the discrepancy "puzzling" and said it indicated a "potentially troubling gap in disciplinary accountability."

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