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Pentagon: Sexual Assault Cases Up Nearly 50% at Military Academies

A new biennial report released by the Pentagon found unreported incidents of sexual assault at three military academies increased from 507 to 747.

Pentagon: Sexual Assault Cases Up Nearly 50% at Military Academies

The number of reported incidents of sexual assault increased by only five percent.

Sexual assault and harassment cases are up significantly at military academics despite an increase in prevention efforts, according to a report released by the Department of Defense on Jan. 31.

The biennial anonymous survey, which was distributed to 12,000 cadets and midshipmen at the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy, found unreported instances of sexual assault increased by almost 50 percent last academic year, reports ABC News.

There were 747 unreported incidents of unwanted sexual contact during the 2017-2018 school year, compared to 507 during the 2015-2016 school year.

However, despite efforts by the academies to encourage students to report assaults, the report also found reported instances increased only slightly, from 112 to 117.

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • 56 reports were made last year at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, compared to 50 the previous year
  • 32 reports were made at the U.S. Naval Academy, compared to 29 the previous year
  • The U.S. Air Force Academy reported a decrease from 33 to 29 the previous year
  • 8 percent of female students and 2.4 percent of male students reported being sexually assaulted
  • Approximately 50 percent of female students and 16 percent of male students reported experiencing sexual harassment
  • Overall, respondents voiced confidence in senior leader’s efforts to reduce sexual assault but expressed low confidence in their classmates

View this article’s slideshow to see infographics of the survey’s findings.

“We are disheartened that the strategies we have employed have not achieved the results we had intended,” said Dr. Elizabeth Van Winkle, Executive Director of the Defense Department’s Office of Force Resiliency. “We do not believe the trends in this year’s report reflect the time, energy, and commitment dedicated to eliminating sexual misconduct from the service academies.”

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis previously ordered academy leaders to focus on programs that emphasize responsible alcohol consumption and the reporting of sexual assault incidents.

The survey asked about alcohol use for the first time and found almost one-third of male students and 15 percent of female students said they drank heavily. It also found alcohol was involved in 63 percent of incidents reported by women and 56 percent of incidents reported by men.

Don Christensen, the former top prosecutor for the Air Force and currently the president of Protect Our Defenders, a group that works to protect victims of sexual assault in the military, said the report shows a cultural program within the academies, according to Hello Giggle.

“There have been decades of the academies downplaying sexual assault,” he said. “There are almost zero consequences for someone who commits sexual assault there.”

Nate Galbreath, deputy director of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said cadets and midshipmen face unique pressures not seen in the larger active duty force because of concerns regarding how they will be perceived by fellow students.

“They want to graduate, they want to get out and they want to join the active force, so they don’t want to report something that might impact that or hold them up,” he said.

About the Author

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Amy Rock is Campus Safety's senior editor. She graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a minor in Education.

She has worked in the publishing industry since 2011, in both events and digital marketing.

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One response to “Pentagon: Sexual Assault Cases Up Nearly 50% at Military Academies”

  1. Richard Johnson says:

    There are four service academies: Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard at New London, CT.

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