Reports of sexual assault in the military increased 50 percent this year, the Department of Defense said today.
More than 5,000 cases were reported in FY2013 (October 2013 to September 2014), up from 3,374 in FY2012.
Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson emailed the following statement to ABC News:
"The DoD has been reviewing preliminary reporting data for FY13. It appears that there will be slightly more than 5,000 reports of sexual assaults. This is a 50% increase from FY12.
"Of the 5,000 preliminary reports, approximately 10% are for incidents that occurred prior to the victim entering military service. This is a 325% increase from FY12, when that amount was approximately 4% of 3,374 reports.
"It's too early to say how many reports involved service members as the subject (i.e. perpetrator) as there are still many ongoing investigations. That information won't be available until investigations are completed and the data is analyzed. We anticipate having this information in the spring timeframe."
If this headline sounds familiar, it should: The numbers track closely with third-quarter data reported in November, when 3,553 reports filed between October 2012 and June 2013 marked a 46 percent increase from reports in the first three quarters of FY2012.
U.S. military officials told The Associated Press they think the increase is a result of more victims reporting incidents, not of more assaults. "Given the multiple data points, we assess that this is more reporting," Col. Alan R. Metzler, deputy director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, told the AP.
The largest increase came in the Marines: The smallest U.S. military branch saw an 86 percent increase in reported assaults, the Pentagon confirmed. The Navy saw the smallest increase, 45 percent.
The Pentagon has released its latest numbers as military sexual assaults have become an increasingly talked-about political topic, with Congress pushing changes to how the military handles them. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has called for removing sexual assault prosecutions from the military chain of command, a proposal that won backing from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last month.
President Obama Thursday enacted new procedures that stopped short of Gillibrand's proposal.
The latest Defense authorization bill, signed by president in Hawaii, will prevent officers from overturning sexual assault convictions, criminalizes retaliation against victims who report assaults and eliminates the statute of limitations on sexual assault for courts-martial.
Obama last Friday ordered a one-year Pentagon review of how to better prevent and handle sexual assaults in the military.