Sexual assault reports rise at military academies

Sexual assault reports rise at military academies
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Reports of sexual assaults in military service academies increased by more than 50 percent in the 2014 to 2015 school year compared with the previous year, according to a Pentagon report released Friday.

The report indicates the increase might be because of growing confidence among students that the assault allegations will be taken seriously.

“Given the department’s goal to increase reporting of sexual assault, DoD is encouraged by the increased number of reports received by the MSAs,” the report says, using an abbreviation for military service academy. “However, the academies must continue their efforts to prevent sexual assault.”

In the 2014-15 school year, there were 91 reports of sexual assault. That’s compared to 59 the previous year.

Eight of the 91 assaults took place before the person entered military service, according to the report.

“The department views such reports as an indicator of confidence in the sexual assault response system and the support services available to cadets and midshipmen,” the report reads.

The largest year-over-year increase came from the Air Force Academy, which had 49 reports in 2014-15 compared to 25 the previous year.

The Naval Academy had 25 reports compared to 23 the previous year. And the Military Academy had 17 compared to 11 the year before.

The report found that each academy has “thorough and comprehensive” program to address sexual assault. Still, the report says, improvements can be made, such as improving confidentiality and privacy to encourage more reporting.

“We are encouraged by the steps the academies have taken to eliminate sexual assault,” Maj. Gen. Camille Nichols, the director of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said in a written statement.

“All three academies are taking innovative approaches to improve both respect and safety of cadets and midshipmen. These future leaders are being armed with the knowledge that military units operate best in climates of dignity and respect — where sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other inappropriate behaviors and attitudes are not tolerated.”

Reports of sexual harassment also increased from 20 in 2013-14 to 28 in 2014-15. 

The report recommends the sexual harassment prevention and response program be given more emphasis.

“Academy training was not providing adequate information for cadets and midshipmen to understand the complaint process, not tailored for each class year, and not provided with sufficient frequency at the academies,” the report says. "The department believes that each MSA could benefit from reviewing its approach to sexual harassment prevention and response and improving integration of such activities with sexual assault prevention.”