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Sex-assault reports rise at military schools

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The number of reported sexual assaults at the nation’s three major military academies rose in the latest academic year, according to a review released yesterday by the Pentagon.

The Defense Department’s “Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies’’ for the academic year 2010-2011 found there were 65 reports of sexual assault involving cadets and midshipmen at the US Naval Academy, the US Military Academy, and the US Air Force Academy. That was up from 41 reports of sexual assaults in the prior academic year.

“This is a leadership issue, first and foremost, so I also expect us to lead with integrity and with energy to eliminate sexual assault and harassment from our culture,’’ said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. “I’m confident the steps we are taking are the right ones, but we must continue to improve.’’

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The Pentagon said it could not conclusively identify the reasons for the increases. However, the department has worked to encourage more victims to report sexual assault, and the Pentagon says that could explain the higher number of reports.

The annual report was mandated in the 2007 John Warner National Defense Authorization Act. It directed the Pentagon to evaluate the effectiveness of policies related to sexual harassment and sexual violence on an annual basis.

The Pentagon also announced two new policies to support abuse victims as it released the findings yesterday.