(APNEWS.MYWAY) — Heightened attention to the crime of sexual assault in the U.S. military may be causing more people to come forward and report problems. Defense officials cite the increased awareness as a possible reason the number of reported sexual assaults rose by more than 50 percent this year.

More than 5,000 reports of sexual assault were filed during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, compared to the 3,374 in 2012, according to early data obtained by The Associated Press. About 10 percent of the 2013 reports involved incidents that occurred before the victim got into the military, up from just 4 percent only a year ago.

That increase, officials said, suggests that confidence in the system is growing and that victims are more willing to come forward. While cautious in their conclusions, officials said surveys, focus groups and repeated meetings with service members throughout the year suggest that the number of actual incidents – from unwanted sexual contact and harassment to violent assaults – remained largely steady.

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