WASHINGTON, May 1 (Xinhua) -- Reports of sexual assault in the U.S. military were up 50 percent in 2013 from the previous year, revealed an annual report released by the Pentagon on Thursday.
The latest report showed that the Defense Department received 5, 061 alleged sex assault reports involving at least one service member as either the victim or suspect in the 2013 fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30. This represented a 50 percent increase from the same period the year before.
Defense Department officials and some advocates at the Capitol Hill applauded the surge as evidence that the department has taken steps to encourage and support the alleged victims to come forward to report such abuse.
There is no indication that the sharp increase of reports was due to an overall increase of sex assault in the military, officials said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the latest figures showed " victims are growing more confident in our system."
"Because these crimes are underreported, we took steps to increase reporting, and that's what we're seeing," he told a Pentagon briefing.
Hagel acknowledged that the new report also "underscores that we have a long way to go before we get close to solving this problem."
"We also believe these crimes are still underreported, so we must keep up the pressure and intensify our efforts to improve victim confidence in our system as we work to prevent sexual assault in the military," he said.
Also on the day, the defense secretary issued six new initiatives to build on the efforts to eliminate sexual assault in the military, including a department-wide review of institutional alcohol policies and new methods to better encourage male victims to report assaults and seek assistance.