By Mary Slosson
(Reuters) - Violent sex crimes committed by active U.S. Army soldiers have risen dramatically over the past five years, due in part to the trauma of war, according to an Army report on troop health and discipline released on Thursday.
The rate of suicides among Army soldiers was steady in 2011 after years of steadily rising, the report said.
One violent sex crime was committed by a soldier every six hours and 40 minutes in 2011, the Army said, serving as the main driver for an overall increase in violent felony crimes.
Reported violent sex crimes increased by 90 percent over the five-year period from 2006 to 2011.
Higher rates of violent sex crimes are "likely outcomes" of intentional misconduct, lax discipline, post-combat adrenaline, high levels of stress, and behavioral health issues, the report said.
"While we have made tremendous strides over the past decade, there is still much work to be done," Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli said in a statement.
"Many of our biggest challenges lie ahead after our soldiers return home and begin the process of reintegrating back into their units, families and communities," Chiarelli said.
There were 2,811 violent felonies in 2011, nearly half of which were violent felony sex crimes.
Violent sex crimes committed by U.S. Army troops increased at a rate that consistently outpaced the national trend, a gap that is expected to continue to grow, the Army said.
The top five violent felony offenses committed by soldiers in 2011 were aggravated assault, rape, aggravated sexual assault, forcible sodomy, and child pornography.
Soldiers suffering from issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, and depression have been shown to have higher incidences of partner abuse, according to the report.
Soldiers with PTSD are up to three times more likely to be aggressive with their female partners than those without such trauma, the report said.
The report also said that family abuse cases are typically underreported.
As the largest branch of the U.S. armed forces, the Army has done the bulk of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, including years of extended duty and repeated deployments.
(Editing by Greg McCune)