POLITICS
12/27/2012 11:11 am ET | Updated Dec 27, 2012

Military Sexual Assaults In Combat Zones Happen Frequently: Study

Sexual assault of military women while in a war zone is surprisingly common, according to new research by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In a new study, around half of women deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan reported being sexual harassed, and one-quarter said they were sexually assaulted, U.S.A Today reports.

Researchers contacted 1,100 women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and asked them questions about sexual assaults and harassment while deployed. Among the findings, sexual assaults -- including rape -- were reported by 22.8 percent of women. The anonymous surveys also showed that 48.6 percent of women said they had experienced sexual harassment while in a war zone. Most of the women said the offenders were other service-members, and in a little less than half the cases, the offender held a higher rank.

Sexual assault in the military has been in the spotlight over the past year. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been outspoken about the problem, calling the military's record on prosecuting assaults an "outrage." In September, he ordered a review of all military training.

Last week, the Pentagon released its annual report on sexual harassment and violence at its military academies. Sexual assaults reported by students at the academies jumped 23 percent in 2012, the third straight year of increases.

As The Huffington Post's Molly O'Toole previously reported, many victims of sexual assault in the military suffer in silence. The conviction rate for sexual assaults in the military is just under 6 percent.

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