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One in two women in German military report sexual abuse

BERLIN -- One in two female soldiers in the German military says she has encountered some kind of sexual abuse at least once while in the armed forces, an internal study published Friday found.

The report, released by the Bundeswehr's Center of Military History and Social Studies in the eastern city of Potsdam, prompted new Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen to call for new measures to address problems faced by women in uniform.

Fifty-five percent of women in the Bundeswehr reported some kind of sexual mistreatment on the job, with 47 percent citing verbal abuse, 25 percent saying they had been confronted with pornographic images and 24 percent telling researchers they had experienced “unwanted sexually motivated physical contact.”

Three percent said they had suffered sexual assault.

Von der Leyen, Germany's first female defense chief, said the poll conducted in 2011 among 3,058 women showed the military must change the way it deals with its female soldiers, who make up 10.1 percent of the armed forces.

“We have to make the Bundeswehr significantly more attractive for women,” she told reporters, adding that it must be made “more visible” how much the Bundeswehr benefits from the growing number of women in its ranks.

However a parallel poll of 1,771 male soldiers showed growing resentment of gender diversity.

More than 56 percent said women made the military worse, up from around 52 percent in 2005.

Twelve percent of the male soldiers reported experiencing sexual harassment.

Earlier this month, von der Leyen said she would make creating a more family friendly army a priority during her term by allowing soldiers to work part-time and extending childcare.

U.S. President Barack Obama in December gave the Pentagon a year to confront a scourge of sexual assaults that have sparked calls for commanders to lose the power to adjudicate such crimes.

The U.S. military in August launched a raft of measures to combat sexual assaults, but their action did not appease some lawmakers who want much stronger steps to deal with hundreds of alleged offences from harassment to rape.

Sexual abuse cases in the military are on the rise, according to a Pentagon report, rising to 3,374 in 2012, a six percent increase from the previous year.

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