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Pentagon report shows 32 percent spike in reports of sexual assault at military academies

Reports of sexual assault at U.S. military academies jumped 32 percent in the past school year, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

There were 122 reports of sexual assault involving a cadet or midshipman as an alleged victim or subject during the 2018-19 school year, compared to 92 in 2017-18, according to the annual report from the Defense Department.

Another 19 reported incidents were made by academy students who said the sexual assault happened before they began their assignments, and an additional eight reports came from active duty service members or civilians who worked at the academies and reported a sexual assault that involved an enrolled cadet or midshipman.

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“The Department recognizes the challenge of combatting sexual assault in the Military Service Academies and the high cost of not succeeding,” Elizabeth Van Winkle, executive director of the Office of Force Resiliency, said in a statement accompanying the report.

“Our Academies produce our future leaders. At every turn, we must drive out misconduct in place of good order and discipline,” she added.

Van Winkle said the findings from last year’s and this year’s report reflect progress in some areas and “significant work that remains.”

About 12,900 students attend the Army’s Military Academy at West Point in New York, the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The report, which is based on anonymous surveys of students at all three locations, also said that incidents of sexual harassment remain “high.”

“While the Department has made progress combating sexual assault over the last decade, previous years’ survey data reminds us there is more to do,” the Pentagon’s acting personnel and readiness under secretary, Matthew Donovan, wrote in a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees that accompanied the report.

Breaking down the numbers, the report found that last year there were 33 reports made by or against currently enrolled midshipmen at the Naval Academy, 40 at the Air Force Academy and 57 at West Point.  

Alcohol abuse and a “stereotypical male culture” that “requires women to fit in with the ‘boy’s club’,” contributes to assaults, which students remain hesitant to report “fearing negative social, academic, and career impacts,” the report states.

Retired Air Force Col. Don Christensen, the president of Protect Our Defenders — an advocacy group for victims of sexual assault in the military — said in a statement that the report shows the Pentagon “has repeatedly failed to address the sexual assault crisis gripping its ranks and, as a result, the problem continues to grow.”

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