The Pentagon reported Tuesday that there were about 26,000 cases of military assault last year, an increase of 37 percent from 2010. President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the high number an outrage and denounced the military's handling of assaults.
"I expect consequences," Obama said in a press conference Tuesday. "I don't want just more speeches or awareness programs or training...if we find out people are engaging in this stuff, they're going to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period." Many reported cases were found to have resulted in minor disciplinary action or were dismissed altogether, making victims more reluctant to report assaults against them. Members of Congress worry about this deterring women from joining the military and plan to introduce legislation to possibly change how commanders deal with accusations of sexual assault.
What can Congress change to protect members of the military without weakening the system? Who should deal with incidents within the military’s ranks? Is the high number of assaults a reflection of increased offenses or better reporting?
Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY reporter covering wars' impact on troops and their families