An increase in sexual assaults on military academy campuses underscores two disturbing trends:
- The number of sexual assaults officially reported rose from 112 to 117 cases. While only a slight increase, it is unfortunate that efforts to curb sexual assaults have not yet met with success.
- It appears fewer students are willing to come forward about experiencing sexual assault. Cadets and midshipmen are worried about whether reporting incidences of sexual assault may harm their careers.
Official numbers remain steady
Some do take the brave step of reporting sexual assault. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point accounted for nearly half of the officially reported incidents at 56, up from 50 the previous year. The U.S. Naval Academy accounted for 32, up from 29. Similarly, the U.S. Air Force Academy saw an increase of 29 to 33. These figures mean 8 percent of female and 2.4 percent of male students are the victim of sexual assault at some point during their college career.
Unreported sexual assaults up 50 percent
The results of a survey conducted every two years highlighted an escalation in unreported sexual violence of nearly 50 percent at military academies.
A two-year anonymous survey of students at the Army, Navy and Air Force academies saw a rise in incidents of sexual misconduct, with 747 unreported cases, a significant increase from the 507 reported in 2015-2016.
Students worried about reporting sexual misconduct
It has long been known that many victims suffer secretly in fear of public criticism and scrutiny. The survey was provided to more than 12,000 students at military schools during the 2017-2018 academic year and released by the Department of Defense on Jan. 31. According to the survey, as many as 50 percent of females and 16 percent of males enrolled say they have experienced sexual harassment in some form.
Efforts focused on improving reporting, curbing alcohol use
The Defense Department previously mandated increased reporting and greater alcohol responsibility for students. The hard data culled from the survey shows this has so far been ineffective.
More than one-third of males reported drinking heavily and 15 percent of female students did the same. Heavy drinking was defined as students who typically had five or more alcoholic beverages per day. A significant number of reported incidences of sexual misconduct involve alcohol.
The Pentagon has indicated that it finds the results of the survey unacceptable. More needs to be done. Patriotic students who attend U.S. military academies deserve to be free of sexual abuse. And the brave men and women attending our military academies who report sexual misconduct must be respected, supported and listened to.