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The Marine Corps’ commandant apologized to Congress Tuesday for “the shameful behavior of my Marines,” as the Pentagon released new statistics outlining the military’s growing sexual assault problem.
Gen. Jim Amos said at a House defense appropriations subcommittee hearing that “the stark reality” is that 10 percent of all female Marines could experience some form of sexual assault or harassment. Some 334 sexual assaults were reported in the Corps in 2011, and the actual number is likely four or five times higher, he said.
“I’m determined to change our culture, and I apologize to this committee for the shameful behavior of my Marines,” Amos said.
Meanwhile, a new Pentagon study released Tuesday shows that the number of sexual assaults reported by members of the military rose to 3,374 in 2012, up from 3,192 the previous year. The department estimates that as many as 26,000 service members were assaulted — up from 19,000 in 2011 — based on anonymous surveys, officials said.
The Marine Corps is actively engaged in trying to curb the problem, Amos said. He didn’t offer specific numbers, but said the number of sexual assault convictions in the Corps has doubled in the past 12 months.
Amos came out forcefully on sexualt assault last year, with rhetoric forceful enough that some have questioned whether it could prejudice military juries against those charged with the crime.
“Sex assault is an ugly mark on our proud reputation; it goes against everything we claim to be as United States Marines ... it is a crime,” he wrote in a May 3, 2012, White Letter.
During a visit to Parris Island, S.C., in July, Amos blasted a culture that tends to blame the accuser, estimating that 80 percent of all sexual assault reports were legitimate.
The Corps reported 333 cases of sexual assault in 2011 and 346 in 2012, though Marine officials have said the increase could show an increase in personnel being willing to report the crime.