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The number of sexual assaults reported at US army and navy academies is on the rise

Vice Admiral Ted Carter said that “this kind of toxic behaviour cannot be tolerated”.

REPORTS OF SEXUAL assaults increased at two of the three US military academies last year and an anonymous survey suggests sexual misconduct rose across the board at the schools, The Associated Press has learned.

The new data underscore the challenge in stemming bad behaviour by young people at the military college campuses, despite a slew of programs designed to prevent assaults, help victims and encourage them to come forward.

The difficulties in some ways mirror those the larger military is struggling with amid revelations about Marines and other service members sharing nude photos on websites.

Assault reports rose at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, while dropping at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado.

The Air Force decline was sharp, going to 32 last year from 49 in 2015, contributing to an overall decrease in the overall number of reported assaults at the academies.

The total reported cases fell to 86 from 91 in 2015, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

Pentagon and military officials believe more people are reporting sexual assaults, which they see as a positive trend because it suggests students have more confidence in the system and greater willingness to seek help.

But the anonymous survey results suggest more assaults and crime occurring. They showed more than 12% of women and nearly 2% of men saying they experienced unwanted sexual contact.


In that survey, the largest increases in sexual misconduct were also at the Navy and Army academies. A vast majority of students said they didn’t file a report on the assault because they didn’t consider it serious enough.

Many women said they took steps to avoid the perpetrator, while more than a third of the men said they confronted the person.

Identifying the cause

Senior defense officials expressed disappointment at the figures. They were particularly concerned that more men and women said they experienced unwanted sexual contact.

The rate two years ago was about 8% of women and 1% of men.

“This is almost a new population of folks every four years and that makes it a little bit more difficult for the messages to build up and gather momentum,” said Nate Galbreath, deputy director of the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention office.

Officials struggled to identify a reason. They said some blame may fall on student leaders and how much they are willing to emphasise and enforce sexual assault prevention programs among peers.

“Unless the students have a bit of accountability on their own, unless they take the charge themselves, (senior) leadership can really only take them so far,” said Elizabeth Van Winkle, who is currently the assistant defense secretary for readiness.

If the students aren’t taking the charge themselves, you won’t make as much headway in this population.

Galbreath said sexual assault prevention instruction may be getting lost amid the many messages about social behaviour, including not drinking and driving, or texting and driving.

The Pentagon, he said, is encouraging the academies to increase the amount of time they spend talking about how future leaders must foster a climate of dignity and respect.

He said students should know that enforcing good conduct is something they will need to do as officers when they graduate and lead troops in combat.

In recent months, military leaders have met to try to find what Galbreath called the “holy grail of prevention.”

One example, he said, would involve taking more to the students about when and how to intervene when they see a bad situation developing.

Such scenarios include when they are in a bar drinking or in a workplace in which a boss is the problem.

“What we want those folks to do at the academies is to find those things that seem to really be hallmark situations and help people be better scouts and identify those precursors earlier and also give them a wider range of things that they might be able to do to intervene,” Galbreath said.

Galbreath and Van Winkle said drinking remains a major concern, factoring in about 60 percent of incidents women cite and nearly half of those men cite.

They said the academies have been putting alcohol programs in place, including some that require students to take a class before turning 21.

Sexual harassment reports filed by students dropped at all three academies.

The overall total fell to 10 last year from 28 in 2015.

The anonymous survey showed roughly half of the women and slightly more than 10 percent of men saying they were sexually harassed, near the same level as the previous survey. The surveys are conducted every two years.

Vice Admiral Ted Carter, superintendent at the Naval Academy said the latest increase shows they have more work to do.

“This kind of toxic behaviour cannot be tolerated,” he said “This is a challenging effort considering the fact that 25% of the Brigade turns over every year through graduation and the arrival of a new class every summer.”

Read: US military investigating claims naked photos of female Marines were shared by male colleagues

Read: Marine convicted of murdering defenceless Taliban fighter has sentence reduced

Associated Foreign Press
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