Record sexual harassment and assault found at military academies: ‘Extremely disappointing and upsetting’

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Record sexual harassment and assault found at military academies: ‘Extremely disappointing and upsetting’

Mike Brest

March 10, 02:36 PM March 10, 02:36 PM

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A new Department of Defense survey on sexual harassment and assault at military academies revealed unprecedented levels of both that one official described as “extremely disappointing and upsetting.”

An estimated 21.4% of women and 4.4% of men cadets and midshipmen experienced unwanted sexual contact during the 2021-2022 academic year, according to an annual report released on Friday by the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. Both represent highs that neither sex had reached dating back to 2006 when they started doing the survey.


“So, unfortunately, this year’s report shows a significant increase in sexual assault prevalence at the military service academies. Our numbers indicate that this is the highest sexual assault estimated prevalence rate for both women and men at the military service academies since the department started measuring this in 2006,” Beth Foster, the executive director of the Defense Force Resiliency Office, said during a briefing. “These numbers are extremely disappointing and upsetting. I mean, there’s really no other way to see it.”

The office estimates that 1,136 students at military institutions were the victims of unwanted sexual contact, while 155 individuals reported such an incident during the 2022 school year, which is up from 131 the previous year. The survey was not conducted in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the last time the anonymous survey was conducted, in 2018, the office estimated that roughly 737 students experienced unwanted sexual contact, which was up from approximately 507 in the previous survey.

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They estimated that in 2018, 16.1% of women and 2.6% of men experienced unwanted sexual contact.

Sophomores of both genders were the class that reported the most number of these incidents, while freshmen reported the fewest, both of which are consistent with the 2018 survey.

“What we can say is that as freshman cadets live a very cloistered life, there’s a lot of restriction on movement and freedom,” Dr. Nate Galbreath, acting director of the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said. “And when you become a sophomore, there’s a lot more liberty that you have, abilities to go off base more often and things like that. And so we think that it’s that significant change from condition from freshman to sophomore that exposes people to more risk.”

The report that accompanied the survey found that alcohol remains a significant factor in these assaults.

“According to this year’s survey, 60 percent of unwanted sexual contact events involved alcohol use by either the victim and/or alleged offender. Excessive alcohol consumption is a well-established risk factor for sexual violence. However, as outlined in the Department’s Prevention Plan of Action, prevention activities focused solely on alcohol misuse may not result in reductions in sexual violence,” the report said.

The survey also estimates that 63% of female academy women and 20% of their male counterparts experienced sexual harassment during the 2021-2022 academic year, which is up from 50% and 16%, respectively.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced changes to curb this decadeslong problem in a memo to top military leaders that includes conducting on-site installation evacuations at the institutions and developing an implementation plan for the department’s prevention workforce and leadership requirements, among others.

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