One-Third of Women in Military Report Sexual Harassment, But Sexual Assaults Down in 2007, Pentagon Report Says

One-third of women in the military and 6 percent of men said they were sexually harassed, according to the latest Pentagon survey on the issue.

The figure for women was worse than the previous finding several years ago but better than a similar survey taken in 1995, the Defense Department said in a report Friday. The Defense Manpower Data Center said it compiled the data from a survey of 24,000 people in 2006.

A separate report on sexual assaults showed that fewer cases were reported among military personnel in 2007 after years of significant increases.

There were 2,688 sexual assaults reported last year by people in uniform, the figures showed. That was down about 9 percent from the 2,947 reported the year before.

Officials said some changes in the method of reporting data made it difficult to compare numbers year to year. In 2005, there were about 2,400 sexual assaults reported.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman did not confirm details of the report on sexual assaults but said "the minimal decrease in numbers should not be necessarily viewed as any type of indicator or change."

"It takes several years to develop usable trends in data," he said. "While the numbers are marginally down, it would be too early and premature to make any big assessments in terms of trends."

Reports of sexual assault reports had jumped by about 24 percent in 2006 and nearly 40 percent in 2005. Officials attributed the increases partly to more aggressive efforts to encourage victims to come forward.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., said she still was concerned that too few perpetrators are being brought to justice and not all victims are being helped.

"Even if these numbers are accurate, the problem of violence against women in the military remains pervasive," she said in a statement.

This is the fourth year the military has compiled detailed statistics on sexual assaults. The reporting methods have changed each year, complicating efforts to evaluate progress or to determine whether it is the actual assaults or the reporting that is going up or down.

The cases involved members of the military who were either victims or accused of the assaults. The military counts rape, nonconsensual sodomy, indecent assault and attempts to commit any of those as sexual assault.

According to the documents, 1,516 reports involved the Army; 565 for the Air Force; 394 for the Navy; and 213 for the Marines. The active duty Army, by far the largest service with about 518,000 soldiers, also saw the highest rate of reported sexual assaults.

The Army had 2.6 reports per 1,000 soldiers; the Air Force's rate was 1.6 reports per 1,000; the Marines' rate was 1.1 per 1,000; and the Navy's rate was 1 per 1,000 sailors. The average was 1.8 sexual assaults reported per 1,000 military members.

Also, this is only the second full year in which the military has included in the totals sexual assaults that are filed under a program that allows victims to report the incident and receive health care or counseling services but does not notify law enforcement or commanders.

Of the 2,688 reports filed last year, 705 were initially made under that restricted program. But victims are allowed to change their minds and pursue an investigation later, and that was done in 102 of those cases, thus 603 remain restricted.

Under congressional pressure, Pentagon officials have moved in recent years to improve the way the services handle sexual assaults. Efforts have also been made to increase training and awareness of the issue, so that military members were more comfortable coming forward to report the assaults.

Some of the changes came after problems with sexual abuse at the service academies came to light, as well as problems in units stationed overseas.