Reports of sexual assault in the military increased by nearly 10 percent in 2017 boosted by a surge in reporting from the Marine Corps, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Reports of sexual assaults increased across all branches of the U.S. military in 2017 as the services grappled with numerous scandals that exposed the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment in their ranks.
Pentagon officials often say a rise in sexual assault reports represents a growing confidence in the justice system where victims feel more comfortable coming forward. Critics say there’s little reason to conclude the higher numbers are a result of this confidence and not a reflection of more sexual assaults.
U.S. officials told the AP there were 6,769 reports of sexual assaults made in the year ending on Sept. 30, compared to 6,172 in the year-before period. The Marine Corps saw an increase of nearly 15 percent, from 870 in 2016 to 998 last year.
The number of sexual assault reports in the Navy increased roughly 9 percent from 1,450 to 1,585 in 2017, while the Army saw an 8 percent increase.
The Pentagon is set to release its annual data on sexual assault prevention next week, but several U.S. officials released the figures to the AP ahead of time.
The Marine Corps was exposed in March of last year for a nude photo-sharing scandal where explicit photos of service members were shared on a Facebook group called “Marines United.” Since then the Marine Corps and the Pentagon as a whole have attempted to crack down on the issue with new training and policies targeting sexual harassment.
Later, VICE News exposed an offshore trove of military revenge porn hosted on the Anon-IB message board, which was taken down by Dutch authorities on Wednesday.
In January, a group of active-duty and retired service members led a small demonstration in front of the Pentagon as part of the #MeToo movement. Though it was a small group, advocates say it was a notable step forward for a community that has long stayed silent about internal sexual misconduct.
Cover image: Soldiers, officers and civilian employees attend the commencement ceremony for the U.S. Army's annual observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in the Pentagon Center Courtyard March 31, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)