(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Defense said on Tuesday that there was a rise in reports of sexual assault at the nation's military academies in the most recent school year and announced new policies to help victims.
The "Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at Military Service Academies" found that during the 2010-11 year there were 65 reports of sexual assaults involving cadets and midshipmen, up from 41 in the prior year.
To help address the jump, the academies are implementing two new policies.
Service members who have been victims of sexual assault will now be able to request an expedited transfer from their units. The military will now also retain records of sexual assaults longer -- in some cases as long as 50 years.
"We know that the military academies are similar to college campuses around the country in that sexual harassment and assault are challenges that all faculty, staff and students need to work to prevent," said Major General Mary Kay Hertog, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.
"However, when it does occur, we owe it to those who have been victimized, and to every cadet and midshipman, to do everything possible to provide needed support and to hold those who commit sexual assault appropriately accountable."
As part of the review process, Department of Defense officials visited the U.S. Military Academy, Naval Academy and Air Force Academy and reviewed academy policies and procedures. They also held focus groups.
Officials found most academy programs fulfilled or in some cases surpassed existing policies and directives, but Hertog said they have also identified areas for improvement.
(Reporting by Karin Matz; Editing by James B. Kelleher and Jerry Norton)