NEW YORK (AP) — Sexual assault occurs in many settings, and the perpetrators come from every part of U.S. society.
Yet as recent incidents and reports make clear, it's a particularly intractable problem in the military, with its enduring macho culture and unique legal system.
Advocates for change say one significant factor is the perception by many victims in the military that they lack the recourses available in the civilian world to bring assailants to justice.
The military insists it takes the problem seriously and has implemented numerous policies and programs to reduce the assaults.
But the problem persists.
A recent Pentagon report estimates that 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 in 2011. Victims reported 3,374 incidents in 2012, and there were convictions in 238 of those cases.
Reports of a disturbing case of sexual assault coming from Belleville.
A 45-year-old man is in custody after allegedly raping a 2-year-old girl. Officers say there was a witness present for the assault. The suspect in the case is a relative of the child. The toddler has been taken to a hospital for evaluation.
The case is now in the hands of the State's Attorney.
Determined not to let the statute of limitations keep them from prosecuting a serial rapist, St. Clair County authorities have charged a suspect identified only by his DNA profile with a 2005 assault in East St. Louis.
The profile is linked to four other sexual assault cases between 1997 and 2008.
Prosecutors say they to the action in order to file charges before the 10 year statute of limitations runs out.
Illinois State Police Lt. Dave Wasmuth says he believes the serial rapist will eventually be arrested. "We're just waiting for his DNA to be taken, submitted to the DNA index, and a match will occur, Lt. Wasmuth said. "And then the warrant would be amended and actually put that person's name on the warrant."
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly says the victim, who no longer lives in the St. Louis area, is "happy" that authorities are pursing a conviction so aggressively.
This is the first time St. Clair County prosecutors have filed charges against a suspect identified only by a DNA profile, but similar legal actions have been taken elsewhere in Illinois.
Bail for the unnamed suspect has already been set at $750,000.
St. Louis Public School officials have placed a high school teacher on leave after he allegedly had sex with a student.
Court documents say David Marler had sex with a male student at Soldan High School. Marler also allegedly gave the same student an inhalant that made him dizzy and lightheaded. Marler faces eleven charges, including sodomy, sexual contact with a student, and endangering the welfare of a child.
The school placed Marler on leave on Monday.
St. Louis Police are asking any parents who believe their kids may have been victimized by Marler to call the Child Abuse unit at 314.444.5385.
Police are hoping someone will come forward with a tip that leads them to a sexual predator.
Students at Lindenwood University were alerted Sunday of a report of sexual assault overnight.
A Lindenwood University student was reportedly attacked early Sunday in the 1000 block of Powell. St. Charles Police are investigating.
Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 866-371-8477.
ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) - A registered sex offender in St. Charles County has been sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to more sex crimes.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that 54-year-old Dennis Lee Noack of St. Charles was sentenced Monday to three life terms for statutory sodomy and child molestation. The sentences will run concurrently.
The three victims ranged in age from 7 to 16.
Noack was previously convicted of sexual conduct with a 12-year-old girl in a 2000 case, and sentenced to 179 days in jail.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill returned to Missouri to push for tougher punishments of military sexual assaults.
The Democratic senator and former Jackson County prosecutor met Wednesday with top officials from the Missouri National Guard at the Guard's Jefferson City headquarters.
Her appearance came one month after senior military leaders were chastised at a Senate hearing because an Air Force commander dismissed the conviction of a lieutenant colonel for sexually assaulting a civilian employee at Aviana Air Force Base in Italy.
McCaskill has introduced legislation to revise the Uniform Code of Military Justice to prohibit commanders from overturning jury verdicts in military tribunals. Those leaders would also have to explain in writing any decisions to reduce sentences after guilty verdicts in court martials.
"Do you really think that after a jury has found someone guilty, and dismissed someone from the military for sexual assault, that one person, over the advice of their legal counselor, should be able to say, 'Never mind'?" Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., asked Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, the top officer at U.S. Central Command, at a Senate hearing.
Mattis explained that commanders, including female commanders, have the authority to act for a reason. "And I would just tell you that I would look beyond one case," he said.
McCaskill sent a letter to Air Force officials seeking an explanation while Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., wrote to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking him to review the case.
The Air Force Times reported last month that Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a former inspector general at Aviano Air Base in Italy, had been convicted on Nov. 2 on charges of abusive sexual contact, aggravated sexual assault and three instances of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman. The incident had involved a civilian employee.
Wilkerson was sentenced to a year in prison and dismissal from the service. But Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, the commander of 3rd Air Force, later dismissed the charges. The Air Force Times reported that Franklin had concluded that the evidence was insufficient to meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
"This is a travesty of justice," Boxer and Shaheen wrote. "At a time when the military has unequivocally stated that there is zero tolerance for sexual assault, this is not the message it should be sending to our service men and women, and to our nation."
They asked Hagel for information on what was the basis for Franklin's decision and pressed him to act immediately to restrict such authority to dismiss military court decisions unilaterally.
McCaskill wrote Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, that Franklin's decision "show ignorance, at best, and malfeasance, at worst."
"I strongly urge you to undertake an immediate review of his conduct and consider removing him from his leadership position," the senator wrote.
She pointed out that as the Air Force and "other military organizations are redoubling efforts to erase a culture that has often turned a blind eye on sexual assault, Lt. Gen. Franklin's conduct undermines this important shift."
In January, Welsh likened sexual assault in the Air Force's ranks to a cancer and vowed to tackle the problem by screening personnel more carefully and putting an end to bad behaviors like binge drinking that can lead to misconduct.
Welsh told a House oversight committee that the service recorded a disturbing number of reports of sexual assault last year even as it worked to curb misconduct in the wake of a sex scandal at its training headquarters in Texas. Dozens of young female recruits and airmen at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio were victimized by their instructors who sexually harassed, improperly touched or raped them.
Most difficult, Welsh said, is transforming a culture in which victims are often reluctant to report what happened because of guilt, shame or fear they won't be believed.
John Scott Thomas III will spend 30 years in his prison for his role in the June 2011 abuse case. Thomas, along with his girlfriend and another man, sexually assaulted three young girls, ages 7 months, 3 years, and 5-years-old. The abuse took place at Tee Kay Mobile Home Manor in an unincorporated area of the county near O'Fallon.