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Pentagon outlines plan to crack down on sexual assaults in US military

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the moves will 'fundamentally change' Pentagon's prosecution of sexual assault cases. Service members who don't report sexual assaults often say they have little faith that perpetrators will be brought to justice.

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Veterans Kori Cioca, of Wilmington, Ohio, left, and Panayiota Bertzikis of Somerville, Mass., both assaulted and raped while serving in the US Coast Guard, meet at their attorney's office in Washington, in February 2011. On Monday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a new initiative improve how the Pentagon prosecutes cases of sexual assault within the military.

Cliff Owen/AP

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Amid evidence that reports of sexual assault in the military are increasing, the Pentagon plans to launch a new "special victims unit" trained to analyze crime scenes and interview victims, with the aim of bringing more perpetrators to justice.
 
The military will also run sexual assault cases farther up the chain of command, requiring that they are reviewed by a higher-ranking officer than is currently the norm.

The revelations stem from an unusual visit to Capitol Hill late Monday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to meet with lawmakers from the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus. The new measures, he promised them, will "fundamentally change" the way the Pentagon prosecutes cases of sexual assault within the military.

“I certainly can’t remember another time when a secretary of Defense came to brief the caucus,” said one congressional staffer, who asked to remain anonymous because she is not authorized to speak about the closed-door session. 

Mr. Panetta was joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey

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