USA — Sexual Harassment, Assault Reports Rise at Service Academies

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2010 — The num­ber of report­ed sex­u­al harass­ment and assaults at the armed forces’ three ser­vice acad­e­mies is up from last year, but the rise could be due to an increase in edu­ca­tion and train­ing at the schools, Defense Depart­ment offi­cials said today.
Forty-one inci­dents were report­ed for the 2009–2010 school year, up from 25 last school year, accord­ing to the “Annu­al Report on Sex­u­al Harass­ment and Vio­lence at the Unit­ed States Mil­i­tary Ser­vice Acad­e­mies” man­dat­ed year­ly by Con­gress.

“Sex­u­al harass­ment and assault are incom­pat­i­ble with our core val­ues, degrade mis­sion readi­ness and reflect poor­ly on mil­i­tary cul­ture,” said Clif­ford L. Stan­ley, under­sec­re­tary of defense for per­son­nel and readi­ness. “The depart­ment is com­mit­ted to estab­lish­ing a cul­ture free of sex­u­al harass­ment and assault at the acad­e­mies, and for the force in gen­er­al.” Defense offi­cials said the recent increase in reports might not reflect an actu­al increase in inci­dents, but rather may be a result of increased train­ing and edu­ca­tion, in addi­tion to vic­tims hav­ing more con­fi­dence in the Defense Department’s response. All the vic­tims who report­ed a sex­u­al assault received sup­port assis­tance, offi­cials said.

In 2005, the Defense Depart­ment began offer­ing vic­tims a restrict­ed report­ing option, under which they could report a sex­u­al assault with­out reveal­ing the offender’s iden­ti­ty. Since then, more than 3,000 peo­ple have cho­sen that report­ing method, said Kaye Whit­ley, direc­tor of the department’s Sex­u­al Assault Pre­ven­tion Pro­gram. This year’s report reflects that about half of the cas­es stemmed from the restrict­ed report­ing option, she said.

“Sex­u­al assault is one of our nation’s most under-report­ed vio­lent crimes, and we know the major­i­ty of sex assaults occur in the 18- to 25-year-old age range,” Whit­ley said. “[The restrict­ed option] gives vic­tims the oppor­tu­ni­ty to come for­ward and get the med­ical and men­tal health coun­sel­ing they need with­out fil­ing a for­mal com­plaint so that an inves­ti­ga­tion ensues. There are a lot of bar­ri­ers to report­ing sex­u­al assault.”

A vic­tim can lat­er choose to change the restrict­ed report to unre­strict­ed so offend­ers can be held account­able, Whit­ley said.

The report released today shows restrict­ed reports rose from 15 in 2005 to 22 in 2010. Unre­strict­ed reports, how­ev­er, fell from 27 in 2005 to 19 in 2010.

All three schools –- the Army’s U.S. Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my at West Point, N.Y.; the U.S. Naval Acad­e­my in Annapo­lis, Md.; and the U.S. Air Force Acad­e­my in Col­orado Springs, Colo., are mak­ing progress in sex­u­al assault aware­ness through social media, local rape cri­sis cen­ters and the com­mu­ni­ty, Whit­ley said.

Whit­ley said plans for next year include onsite assess­ments at the mil­i­tary acad­e­mies by a team of peo­ple from diver­si­ty man­age­ment, equal employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ty and the armed forces. “We’ll sit down with small groups of stu­dents and delve a lit­tle deep­er on the ques­tions we ask,” she said.

In the spring, Whit­ley said, a mil­i­tary­wide hot­line will be set up for vic­tims. It also will offer text mes­sag­ing and online chat­ting with experts who can advise them.

“I think that’s going to help with the under-report­ing,” Whit­ley said, “because any time, any­where, they can pick up the phone and make a call and there will be some­one on the oth­er end of the line who can give them the sup­port and care they need.”

Accord­ing to the sur­vey results, depart­ment offi­cials esti­mate that few­er than 10 per­cent of inci­dents are actu­al­ly report­ed at the acad­e­mies.

The Uni­form Code of Mil­i­tary Jus­tice has eight cat­e­gories for sex­u­al assault and harass­ment, rang­ing from inde­cent assault to rape. All offens­es report­ed fall into one of these eight cat­e­gories.

The most reports record­ed were 42 in 2005, the year the Defense Depart­ment began col­lect­ing sta­tis­tics at the ser­vice acad­e­mies.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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