An anonymous student survey accompanying the report shows increases in all types of unwanted sexual contact – from touching to rape – at all the schools. And it cites alcohol as a key factor. The military services and the academies have struggled for years to combat sexual assault and harassment, with a myriad of prevention, education and treatment programs every year. But despite reams of research, recommendations and a shift to more independent prosecutions, the numbers continue to grow.
The increases have triggered outrage on Capitol Hill and a steady stream of legislation. But as yet, the changes have not appeared to make a dent in the problem, although officials argue that improved treatment programs have encouraged more victims to report the crimes.
According to U.S. officials, 155 students reported assaults during the 2022 school year, compared with 131 the previous year. Of those, students at the U.S. Naval Academy reported 61 — nearly double the school’s total for the previous year, when there were 33, which was by far the lowest of all the academies for that year.
Cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado reported 52, the same as the previous year, and those at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York reported 42, a slight decrease from last year’s 46.
Not all of the assaults included in the report happened while the students were enrolled in the academies. Because students at the academies are encouraged to report assaults, they sometimes will come forward to talk about events that happened in the years before they started school there. As a result, 16 students reported an assault in the 2021-22 school year that occurred prior to joining the military.
Another 35 cases involved civilians, active-duty service members and prep school students who allegedly were assaulted by someone who was a student. Altogether, the total number of reported assaults with any connection to a student was 206 — about 28% higher than last year’s total of 161.
Based on the surveys, students at the academies are also less likely to report an assault than service members who are out of school. Students may worry more about the impact on their military career or even on the career of their attacker.