There were nearly 6,000 reported cases of sexual assault in the military this year, an eight percent jump from last year, according to a Pentagon report delivered to President Obama Tuesday.
The study is a result of a request from President Obama in December 2012 that the military conduct a review of sexual assault in the armed forces within the year.
"If I do not see the kind of progress I expect, then we will consider additional reforms that may be required to eliminate this crime from our military ranks," the president said in a statement at the time.
Since sexual assault is often underreported, the number of service members who were assaulted could be far higher. In 2012, the Defense Department estimated that there were 26,000 cases of sexual assault, but just 3,374 were reported.
The Pentagon has painted the increase in reported cases in recent years as a good sign, arguing that it shows more servicemembers trust the military justice system enough to come forward, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports. According to the latest report, one in four victims of sexual assault reported the crime in 2014 compared to one in ten two years ago.
This year, they estimated that the total number of unwanted sexual contacts dropped to 19,000. Four percent of the women responding to the survey and one per cent of the men said they had experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2014.
Pentagon officials acknowledge they are still a long way from solving the problem of sexual misconduct in the ranks, but they believe they've made enough progress to head off congressional attempts to take the prosecution of sex crimes away from the military.
Earlier this year, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, waged a fierce battle to pass legislation that would have taken sexual assault prosecutions out of the hands of military commanders and the chain of command and left the responsibility with trained military lawyers, instead. Ultimately, she fell five votes short of the necessary 60 votes for passage.
The Senate ultimately passed a more modest set of reforms authored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who argued for prosecuting within the chain of command. Her legislation contained additional less controversial reforms, including elimination of the "good soldier" defense for those accused of assault, and allowing victims a formal say in whether their case is tried in civilian or military court. A number of her other proposals were implemented in the 2014 defense authorization that passed in December, including stripping the ability of commanders to overturn a sexual assault conviction and requiring a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case.
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