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Army Fights Perception on Sex Crimes

Task force reports that more assault cases have been alleged but fewer are found credible.

June 04, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The number of reported cases of sexual assault investigated by the Army rose as the service has grown in size in recent years, but fewer reports were found credible.

The Army released the figures Thursday to counter a perception that the number of sexual assaults in service had recently risen to a record level.

The figures were provided to coincide with the release of an Army task force report that described a fragmentary response across the service to sexual assault. The report recommended better training of soldiers, commanders and investigators, and for battalions to designate two victim advocates who are trained to assist someone who has been assaulted.

In 2003, Army criminal investigators looked into 822 reports of sexual assault, defined as rape, forcible sodomy or indecent assault. The latter category included aggressive sexual touching.

Of those, 492 were determined to be credible, the lowest number in the past five years. In 1999, the earliest year provided, 658 cases of sexual assault were reported and 540 of those were found to be credible.

The Army has authority over sexual assaults committed by or against a member of the service or someone living with them, such as a soldier's spouse on a base. Almost all of the victims were women.

Army officials noted the service, nearly half a million strong, has grown by more than 14,000 people during those five years, so the rate of reported cases could be expected to rise.

Military officials have said that sexual assaults were often not reported by victims who wanted to avoid a criminal investigation, public exposure or the person who assaulted them, so it is probable that the number of actual assaults was higher.

The Army's report described a disjointed approach to dealing with sexual assault throughout the service, where programs to assist in the investigation of sexual assaults and the medical care of victims were in place but were not coordinated.

The report was the result of one of several internal inquiries in response to reports from victims' advocacy groups and the media about assaults against female troops in Iraq and Kuwait and elsewhere in the military.

A Defense Department-wide investigation released last month found that victims of sexual assaults had too often suffered from a lack of support from commanders, criminal investigators and doctors.

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