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The Navy fired Cmdr. Sheryl Tannahill as head of a Navy support center because she carried on an “unduly familiar” relationship — sometimes called fraternization — with an enlisted man.

Neal Puckett, a lawyer who specializes in defending military clients, has witnessed officers who grow so senior in rank that they think they are above the law. Mr. Puckett has taken an advisory role with the Navy in anticipation that the military will launch more sex-abuse prosecutions.

“Hubris, I think, is the word that best describes the condition,” he said. “Sometimes those very senior positions give men a greater sense of power and belief that they are indeed, and finally, masters of their own destiny. Not above reproach, but rather above scrutiny. The system promoted them to where they are, thus they are justified in all of their actions, even when they are abusing that rank and position to satisfy some of their more primitive needs.”

Sexual assaults have become such unwanted occurrences in military life that the Pentagon set up the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office. It reports that sexual assaults have increased 22 percent since 2007.

The Army has issued a report that talks of a “chilling trend” of violent sex crimes growing at a rate of 14.6 percent a year.

Army figures show that reports of such crimes have nearly doubled, from 665 in 2006 to 1,313 last year.

The storyline got worse Dec. 21, when the Defense Department released a report saying sex assaults at the three service academies increased by 23 percent in the 2011-2012 academic year. They grew to 80 cases, from 65 in 2010-2011. The alarming numbers were contained in the Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies.

“Sexual assault has no place in this department,” Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said. “We take care of our people on the battlefield better than anyone else.

“We must extend that same ethos of care to combating sexual assault within our ranks. We have made progress in preventing and responding to sexual assault, but we are not satisfied and recognize there is much more work to do,” she said. “Our aim is to reduce, with a goal to eliminate, the crime of sexual assault from the armed forces.”