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Dennis Woltering / Eyewitness News
Email: dwoltering@wwltv.com | Twitter: @dwoltering

The Coast Guard says a local petty officer will be court martialed in April on charges of raping of a New Orleans woman.

The case is part of a 50 percent increase in reports of sexual assault in the military this year; it is evidence says a local advocate for victims of sexual assault that the military's new crackdown is making a difference.

The Coast Guard says a nine-month investigation found evidence that Petty Officer 3rd Class Joe D. Newmans 'engaged in sexually related misconduct ranging from rape to assault involving a woman in New Orleans.'

The alleged incident took place in November 2012.

Newmans will now face a court martial for charges of rape, sexual assault and assault.

'This is significant change in how rape cases are investigated and how they're followed up on,' said Mary Claire Landry, director of the New Orleans Family Justice Center.

Landry says this reflects the military's new crackdown on sexual assault cases that President Barack Obama has now signed into law. In the past, she says the commanding officer would handle the complaint, and that made the victim reluctant to report a sex crime.

'Often times they're scared, they think they're going to be retaliated against,' Landry said. 'They're concerned they're not going to be believed.'

Landry says the commanding officer now has to turn such complaints over to an independent investigation by what's called the JAG, legal professionals in the military.

'Then it goes through a normal criminal investigation and a determination is made whether it will go to a court martial as is this case,' Landry said.

Critics say the old system caused many valid complaints of sexual assault to go nowhere. Landry says and independent criminal investigation makes that much less likely.

'And so I think it will make a difference. It'll keep these cases from just being ignored or unfounded, which oftentimes happens with these cases,' said Landry.

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