Sexual Assaults in US Military Academies Shoot up – Pentagon

Sexual Assaults in US Military Academies Shoot up - Pentagon

Incidence of sexual assault in US military academies rose sharply last year, despite efforts to combat the crisis, according to a new report by US Defense Department.

During the 2018-2019 school year, there were 149 sexual assaults officially reported to authorities at three military academies, compared to 117 during the previous school year, marking an increase of more than 25 percent, the Pentagon said in a report Thursday.

This year’s count only covered sexual assault cases reported to authorities, which the Pentagon says makes it difficult to determine if the rise in cases is due to better reporting or if sexual assaults did indeed occur more frequently than the year before.

An advocate for victims of sexual assault in the military pointed to last year’s report and said this year’s numbers reflect an increase in incidents, not just a greater willingness to report them.

The three military schools, where students are trained to be military officers, are the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

West Point counted the most student cases, with 57 sexual assaults reported, and the Naval Academy counted the fewest reports at 33. There were 40 cases of sexual assault reported at the Air Force Academy. The rest of the reports came from non-student cases.

“This report is a reflection of what we already know,” said retired Colonel Don Christensen, former Air Force prosecutor and head of the organization Protect Our Defenders. “The Pentagon has repeatedly failed to address the sexual assault crisis gripping its ranks and, as a result, the problem continues to grow.”

“Year after year, military leadership has lauded a focus on prevention despite zero evidence that preventative measures are working. In fact, the opposite is true,” he said.

Christensen called out the Pentagon’s lack of “military justice reform” in not putting sexual assault cases “in the hands of professionals.”

“Their continued obstruction of reform has led to a dramatic increase in sexual assaults and harassment, not only affecting those who bravely serve in our military, but its next generation of leaders as well,” he said.

Last year, a more detailed report of sexual assault at the academies showed there were 747 incidents of unwanted sexual contact – ranging from groping to rape – in the 2017-18 academic year. That was an increase of nearly 50 percent from the 507 incidents in 2015-16.

That report, based on anonymous surveys of cadets and midshipmen at the Army, Air Force and Naval academies, is considered the best measure of the problem.

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