Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced new Pentagon initiatives Wednesday to try to reduce an “unacceptable” number of sexual assaults in the military.
Panetta said there were 3,191 reports of sexual assault in 2011, a slight increase from 2010. Because the crime is underreported, the military estimates that the actual number was closer to 19,000, Panetta said at a press conference announcing the new measures Wednesday.
“It is an affront to the basic American values we defense and it is a stain on the good honor of the great majority of our troops and our families,” Panetta said.
The Defense Department has often been criticized in Congress and by advocates for not taking sexual assault seriously enough.
Panetta said Wednesday that he’s made it his own priority to curb military sexual assaults, and said there would future initiatives in the coming months that would require congressional action.
Wednesday’s announcement included a program for sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates to receive credentialing aligned with national standards. The Pentagon will expand access to victim support services for military spouses, adult dependents, and DoD contractors abroad.
Panetta said he is also increasing funding for investigators and judicial advocates to receive special training, and calling for an assessment in 120 days about how to best train commanding officers and senior enlisted leaders on sexual assault prevention.
Last month, the Pentagon announced two additional initiatives to tackle sexual assault as it released a report that showed an increase in sexual assault cases at military academies in 2011.
By Jeremy Herb
January 18, 2012