Nightly News | September 27, 2012
>>> back now with news about a serious problem in the u.s. military . sexual assaults , just yesterday the army filed charges against a general believed to be the highest ranking officer in u.s. military to face those types of charges. but in too many other cases, women who signed up to serve their country say they now feel betrayed. nbc 's natalie morales talked to some of them in her report for tonight's rock center.
>> reporter: how many of you were raped while you were serving your country? how many of your suspects served prison time for your rape? how many of you felt like you were personally retaliated against? wow. show of hands almost says it all.
>> i knew joining the military would be a sacrifice. this was not the intended sacrifice that i was willing to make.
>> reporter: last year, more than 3,000 service members reported sexual assaults . but according to the department of defense , the real number is closer to 19,000, because most victims don't come forward.
>> we have a moral duty.
>> reporter: defense secretary leon panetta says he is making this problem a top priority. his latest challenge, a sex scandal in san antonio , so far five training teachers have been sentenced for sexual misconduct involving at least 44 women. does the military foster a culture right now that tolerates sexual assault ?
>> as we learned from what happened at lack land air force base , there is a power game going on here that reflects what is happening in society, in general.
>> reporter: this has been a decades-long problem, though, there is scandal after scandal. you brought up the air base , is this that.
>> i think we see that probably that was unfortunately -- it was particularly there. the reality is when you have 19,000 sexual assaults takes place this is something happening elsewhere, as well.
>> reporter: despite everything you have gone through, now, how many of you wish you could still serve your country? you have lost men and women who were willing to lay their lives on the line to serve their country. and have been forced to pay a very high price for that.
>> i guess i want them to know that as difficult as their experience has been, that we are going to learn from that.
>> reporter: nbc 's natalie morales reporting. and you can see much more on this topic tonight on rock center, with brian williams , ten eastern, nine central, right here on nbc .