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Navy reports increase in sexual assault reports

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Service Women's Action Network members pose in front of the Capitol while in Washington for the Truth and Justice Summit. (SWAN) Service Women's Action Network members pose in front of the Capitol while in Washington for the Truth and Justice Summit. (SWAN)
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Navy officials say reports of sexual assault are up by approximately 50 percent from last year, explaining that by the end of the fiscal year, there will be more than 1,100 reported cases.

WNCN talked to a Navy sexual assault survivor from North Carolina who said that the increase is unacceptable.

Bobbie Jo Weisgerber is a veteran of the United States Navy, and said she knows firsthand the horrors of sexual assault in the military.

We first introduced you to Weisgerber a few months ago when she attended a Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) conference with hundreds of other sexual assault survivors from all military branches. She said it was the first time she met other survivors.

Weisgerber said she's suffered a range of sexual assaults from sodomy, repeated rape from the same officer, as well as a terrifying instance of gang rape on the night of her birthday decades ago. The trauma from the repeated brutality has left her with 100 percent disability. Despite time, she said her post traumatic stress disorder has only gotten worse.

Navy officials said the uptick in reports is a positive sign, explaining that more sailors feel comfortable coming forward. They said the increase was expected, because of ramped up efforts to let sailors know that sexual assaults are being treated seriously.

But Anu Bhagwati, the Executive Director of SWAN and a former Marine Corps captain said that's not the only reason.

"Increased reporting is the result of years of relentless work by survivors and advocacy groups. We are not done. Increased reporting alone will not ensure perpetrators are prosecuted and punished, or that military culture will be transformed," she said.

She's calling to professionalize military justice, so that legal decisions are no longer made by commanding officers.

The latest Department of Defense report estimated that 26,000 service members have been sexually assaulted, but fewer than 3,000 were reported.

Eileen Park

Eileen joined WNCN after years of working as a foreign correspondent. During her time off, she enjoys relaxing with her dogs, reading, and exploring the Triangle. More>>

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