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Navy attempts culture change on sexual assaults

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NORFOLK, Va. — The Navy is putting unprecedented attention on reducing sexual assaults among sailors this year.

High-ranking Navy leaders are likening it to their crusade years ago to stop rampant drug abuse. They say sexual abuse is not only dehumanizing to victims, but also threatens their operational readiness.

Most sexual assaults in the Navy occur after a night of drinking. Officials say many of them could be prevented if someone had spoken up sooner to stop that chain of events. There have been more than 600 sexual assaults involving Navy personnel reported in each of the past two years.

Under a Defense Department initiative, a higher level of command will start addressing the most serious sexual assault offenses starting Thursday. In the Navy, that's someone at the captain level.