Nightly News   |  May 07, 2013

Pentagon: Unreported military sexual assaults skyrocket

The number of reported sexual assaults in the military has risen six percent to 3,374, and the number of unreported sexual assaults is estimated to have increased from 19,000 to 26,000. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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>>> from this stunning news out of cleveland, we turn to other news which tonight includes disturbing numbers from the pentagon on sexual assault in our military. these new stats come just one day after we learn the air force officer in charge of preventing sexual assault has been charged with committing one. the military's been saying they are going to fix this problem, but it looks worse than ever tonight. our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski has our report.

>> reporter: the numbers are staggering. a pentagon survey estimates unreported sexual assaults in the military last year skyrocketed from 19 to 26,000. the number of reported assaults rose 6% to 3,374. out of that, only 238 assailants were convicted. defense secretary chuck hagel issued a call to eliminate sexual assaults .

>> sexual assault is a despicable crime and one of the most serious challenges facing this department.

>> reporter: echoed by the commander in chief.

>> we find out somebody's engaging in this stuff, they've got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions.

>> reporter: the report comes a day after the embarrassing revelation that lieutenant colonel jeff cruzzenski, the man in charge of preventing sexual assault for the air force , was arrested of sexual assault last weekend.

>> we're all outrage and disgusted.

>> reporter: but on capitol hill air force chief of staff general mark welch declared that 20% of recruits coming into the military have already been sexually assaulted.

>> so they come in from a society where this occurs. some of it is the hook-up mentality of junior high and high school students now.

>> reporter: that drew outrage from democratic senator kristin gillibrand.

>> we're talking about aggressors who are targeting them specifically. this is a violent act not a date gone badly.

>> reporter: but victims find it difficult to report sexual assaults to their commanders. she says she was raped as a young marine but that her claims were dismissed.

>> having someone in your direct chain of command handling the case just doesn't make sense. it's like your brother raping you and having your dad decide the case.

>> reporter: as for lieutenant colonel cruzzenski, the air force revealed that he had just finisheded his sexual assault victim training only days before he was arrested on charges of sexual assault .