Nearly 36,000 US service members received some form of unwanted sexual contact, highest in 16 years, according to an official report.

The Army has the highest spike in sexual assault reports, jumping 26 percent from 2020.
The Army has the highest spike in sexual assault reports, jumping 26 percent from 2020. (AA Archive)

Sexual assault is up 13 percent in the US military, according to an annual report to Congress by the Department of Defense.

"The Department estimates that 35,875 active duty Service members experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact in the year prior to being surveyed," it said in the report released on Thursday. 

That translates to 8.4 percent of active duty women experiencing sexual assault and 1.5 percent of men experiencing unwanted sexual contact.

The statistics only confirm what has been an ongoing problem in the US armed forces divisions for decades.

The numbers from 2021 fiscal year are the highest since the US military began tracking sexual assault in 2006.

"Sexual assault and sexual harassment remain persistent and corrosive problems across the military," according to the report.

US army faces huge rise in complaints

The Army had the highest spike in sexual assault reports, jumping 26 percent from 2020. It is the largest increase for that division of the military since a 51 percent jump in 2013.

The Navy had a 9 percent increase in unwanted sexual contact, followed by the Air Force and Marine Corps – each reporting a 2 percent rise in sexual assaults.

The numbers showed that 8,866 cases of sexual assault were brought forward in 2021, a 13 percent increase from the year before. Of those cases, 7,249 were from active duty members who said they experienced sexual assault during their service.

Military officials said the Pentagon remains "sharply focused on solving this problem."

"Across the entire Department of Defense, we are building enduring cultural change on an unprecedented scale," Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr., Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, said in a statement.

"We are incorporating accountability and transparency into our response process while establishing a professionalised prevention workforce to reduce harmful behaviours and promote the well-being of our Service members," he said. 

"Taken together, the efforts will set the right conditions to reduce and eliminate unwanted sexual contact, sexual assault, and sexual harassment in the Military Departments."

READ MORE: Survey: Sexual assault reports across US military rise by 13%

Source: AA