Mike Groll/AP

Reported sexual assaults at military academies continue to rise

Number has increased since 2008.

Panetta advised academy leaders to identify new strategies to lower the cases of assault and to eliminate the environment that makes them possible. 

Sexual assault reports at military academies continued to rise in 2012, according to Pentagon officials.

There were 80 reports of sexual assault in the 2011-2012, marking a 23 percent increase from the previous academic year. The number has been increasing since 2008.

“Every one of these reports represents somebody being victimized and traumatized by a terrible crime,” said Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, the director of the Defense Department's Sexual Assault and Prevention Office, according to the American Foreign Press Service.

The apparent increase is likely due, at least in part, to greater willingness among victims to come forward. The Service Academy Gender Relations Survey -- which allows cadets and midshipmen to report instances of sexual assault anonymously -- found the incidence of “unwanted sexual contact” virtually unchanged since 2010, when the survey was previously conducted.

The Pentagon said that while an increase in the likelihood of victims to report harassment and assault is a step in the right direction for their care, progress has been too slow in preventing the assaults altogether.

“These crimes and abhorrent behavior are incompatible with the core values we require of our armed forces’ future officers,” said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

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