Sexual assaults on the rise at US military academies

Reported sexual assaults at US military academies spiked during the 2021-22 school year, with one in five female cadets saying in an anonymous survey that they had experienced unsolicited sexual contact, The Associated Press has found.

A report from the military on reported assaults at Army, Navy and Air Force academies shows an overall 18% increase in reported assaults by female cadets compared to the previous year.

The rise was mostly in the Navy, which nearly doubled the number of reported assaults in 2022 compared to 2021. It’s unclear whether the phasing out of COVID-19-related restrictions contributed to the rise, including at the Naval Academy. of the United States, which is adjacent to the bars of downtown Annapolis, Maryland.

An anonymous student survey accompanying the report shows increases in all types of unwanted sexual contact — from groping to rape — at all academies. And he cites alcohol as a key factor.

The military and academies have worked for years to combat sexual assault and harassment, with a myriad of prevention, education, and treatment programs each year. But despite extensive research, recommendations, and a shift toward more independent legal proceedings, the numbers continue to rise.

The increases have sparked outrage on Capitol Hill and a steady stream of legislation. But so far, the changes don’t appear to make a dent in the problem, although officials argue that improved treatment programs have encouraged more victims to report crimes.

According to US officials, 155 cadets reported assaults during the 2022 school year, up from 131 the year before. Of those, cadets from the United States Naval Academy reported 61, nearly double the school’s total the previous year, when it was 33 — by far the lowest number of any academy for that year.

Cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado reported 52, the same number as the previous year, and those at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, reported 42, a slight decrease from 46 the previous year. .

Not all of the assaults included in the report occurred when the cadets were enrolled in the academies. Because academy students are encouraged to report assaults, some sometimes report events that happened years before they started school there. As a result, 16 students reported an assault in the 2021-2022 school year that occurred before they enlisted in the military.

Another 35 cases involved civilians, active duty service members and private school students who were allegedly assaulted by someone who was a student. The total number of reported assaults with some connection to a student was 206—about 28% more than last year’s total of 161.

US officials provided details of the findings on condition of anonymity because the report had not yet been made public. The report is expected to be published in the next few hours.

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The COVID-19 pandemic caused a brief drop in cases in academies during the short 2019-2020 school year, when in-person classes were canceled and students were sent home in the spring to finish the semester online.

At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, cadets faced a number of restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic, but these were eased somewhat over time and bars and restaurants reopened. By the end of that year, the numbers started rising again, and officials said it’s hard to know what impact, if any, COVID-19 had on the 2021 school year.

The Pentagon publishes two reports each year on the number of sexual assaults reported by cadets at military academies and by members of the armed forces. But because sexual assault is an underreported crime, the department also conducts anonymous surveys every two years to get a clearer picture of the problem among both the student and active-duty population. Pentagon leaders believe the survey provides a more accurate picture of the attacks and the factors that contribute to them.

Based on surveys, academy students are also less likely to report an assault than service members who have already graduated from school. Students may be more concerned about the impact on their military career or even the career of their abuser.

According to the most recent survey of academy cadets, 21.4% of women said they experienced unwanted sexual contact in the 2022 school year, compared to about 16% in 2018, the last year the survey was conducted. due to COVID-19 restrictions. For men, the rate went from 2.6% in 2018 to 4.4% in 2022.

Based on the survey, attacks against women are more frequent by a man who is generally in the same school year and more than half of the time he knows them from school or other activities. Attacks on men were more frequent—55% of the time—by a woman who was in the same school year and knew them.

Alcohol use is involved in more than half of the cases reported in the survey, with a high of 65% at the Naval Academy. The report recommends additional policies on alcohol consumption.

The report also found that second- and third-year male cadets are at higher risk. And that women are much more likely to report an assault than men.

Pentagon leaders have for years pushed public campaigns urging students to report any attacks, arguing that a rise in assault reports suggests students feel safer to seek help.

According to the report, the rates of unwanted sexual contact reported in the survey are “at or above rates among civilians” based on 2014 and 2018 statistics from the American Association of Universities. No other, more recent statistics are available, so it is difficult to accurately compare military academies with other non-military universities.

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