In April of this year the Department of Defense reported an 11 percent increase in sexual assaults involving a service member, but military insiders say the jump is due to increased reporting, not more assaults.
The report said that there were 3,230 reports filed during the fiscal year that ended last September, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Pentagon, along with local military mental health resources, say that this is a result of a radical policy change in 2004 that altered how the military handled sexual harrasment or assault cases.
Before that date, the Star Tribune says that any and all counts of sexual harassment were immediately sent forth to a civilian law enforcement. Aside from the obvious fears attached to reporting a sexual assault, this only made the action of reporting feel like a deeper betrayal to the unit than the assault in the first place, Lt. Col. Cynthia Rasmussen told the Star Tribune.
Military culture is changing, Helen Benedict, a professor of journalism at Colombia, told the Tribune, and that's good for women who want to serve their country. Long regarded as spoils of victory or prey in the man-focused sphere of combat, women are proving themselves everyday to be just as capable as their male counterparts.
"It's a sign of hope, really, in that once all those people have aged out and younger peers who are more used to seeing women as equal are in charge," she said. "There will be a generational change."