(Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing)
President Barack Obama spoke to 841 men and 206 women at the Naval Academy commissioning ceremony in Annapolis, Md., on Friday, telling them that sexual assault threatens the entire military and it should be stopped.
"Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong," Obama told the Navy grads. "That's why we have to be determined to stop these crimes, because they've got no place in the greatest military on earth."
Earlier this week, the Department of Veterans Affairs revealed that in 2012, more than 85,000 veterans were treated for injuries or illness stemming from sexual abuse in the military. Analysts said that the actual number is likely to be even higher, since many victims decide not to report abuse, for a variety of reasons.
Obama has promised that actions will be taken to try and combat this problem, which he said was a national security threat.
"It's no secret that, in recent decades, many Americans have lost confidence in many of the institutions that help shape our society and our democracy," Obama admitted on Friday.
"As we've seen again in recent days, it only takes the misconduct of a few to further erode the people's trust in their government. That's unacceptable to me, and I know it's unacceptable to you," he continued, though according to Yahoo News he did not out-right name the recent IRS scandal, where agents were said to have targeted conservative groups for tax-exempt status.
The president, who previously said that the sexual abuse plaguing the U.S. army is "shameful and disgraceful," called upon the Navy grads to "assume the burden of leadership" and make sure that "our military remains the most trusted institution in America."
BBC News reported that Obama's speech comes a day after lawmakers introduced legislation that will seek to impose harsher penalties for those who have committed sexual assault in the military.
"This is a crime. It is a violent and vicious crime and the military needs to treat it as such," said Ohio congressman Mike Turner, who co-sponsored the new bill.
Meanwhile, officers have said they are working on providing more support for victims of sexual abuse in the military, and are trying to make the reporting process easier.
"It really is the case that a veteran can simply walk through the door, say they've had this experience, and we will get them hooked up with care. There's no documentation required. They don't need to have reported it at the time," said Dr. Margret Bell, a member of the VA's military sexual trauma team.
"The emphasis is really on helping people get the treatment that they need."