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Reported Sexual Assaults Are Up At Military Academies

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- Alarming new numbers show more sex assaults at military academies than ever before. At the Naval Academy in Annapolis, it's been a controversial issue for years.

Monique Griego has a closer look at what's fueling the increase.

The number of reported sexual assaults at the nation's top three military academies is up. That's from a new 121-page Pentagon report. It includes the Naval Academy in Annapolis, the Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Pentagon says it can't pinpoint an exact reason, but believes victims may be feeling more comfortable in filing reports. 

At the military academies, there were 25 reports of sexual assaults in 2009, 41 in 2010 and 65 in 2011.

"Over time, we've allowed more and more participation by women in the military services and they should absolutely be free from sexual harassment of any kind," said Rick Goldstein, Naval Academy.

Navy's all-star quarterback Lamar Owens was accused of raping a female midshipman in 2006. A military tribunal cleared him of rape charges but Owens was still kicked out of the Academy for what the Academy called "conduct unbecoming an officer."

Military leaders say that high-profile case coupled with a Defense Department mandate for greater oversight of sexual assault and harassment may be reasons that the reporting of cases is up.

A Naval Academy spokesperson says, "The Naval Academy takes seriously incidents of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual contact. We have zero tolerance for this behavior."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says while he believes the steps taken are the right ones. He says "We must continue to improve."

Within the last academic year, the Naval Academy had 22 reported incidents, compared to 11 the year before.

The Naval Academy includes sexual harassment training over all four years of the program. 

The Pentagon has a new policy that allows victims to be transferred from their unit within three days.

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