US military sexual assaults increase again in 2019

Potential US military recruits will need a waiver if they have been hospitalized for COVID-19 (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Washington (AFP) - The number of sexual assaults in the US military increased again in 2019, though at a lower rate than the previous year, according to an annual Pentagon report published Thursday.

The report from the Department of Defense's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPR) showed the number of assaults and sexual crimes brought to the attention of military authorities rose to 7,825, a three percent increase from 2018.

The year before, such incidents rose 13 percent.

The biggest rise was in the Air Force, which saw a nine percent spike, while the Navy had a five percent increase, the Army's sexual assaults were up two percent and such reports were down six percent in the Marines.

The report noted that in cases of sexual assault where the accuser faced retaliation after making a report, 73 percent of the perpetrators were superiors.

The proportion of military personnel reporting a sexual assault remained steady from the year before, according to the report, at 5.1 per 1,000 people.

While the Marines have previously been called out for their especially high number of sexual assaults, this year's report shows that such cases are becoming more equal between the five branches.

Such reports in the Army remained the same as 2018 at 5.5 per 1,000.

They grew to 5 per 1,000 from 4.8 the year before in the Navy, from 4.3 to 4.6 per 1,000 in the Air Force and decreased among Marines from 5.7 to 5.4 per 1,000.

"One of our prevention efforts over the past year focused on preparing leaders at all levels to better reach our youngest Service members who are most at risk," said SAPR director Nate Galbraith.

"Helping our newest enlisted leaders and supervisors create healthy unit climates will benefit our military and all those who serve," he said.