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Sexual assault reports up at USNA, down at other academies

Jan. 10, 2014 - 02:58PM   |  
The Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., had an increase in reports of sexual assaults from 13 in 2011-12 to 15 in 2012-13.
The Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., had an increase in reports of sexual assaults from 13 in 2011-12 to 15 in 2012-13. (Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)
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The Naval Academy saw an uptick in sexual assault reports during the 2012-13 school year, according to a report released Friday by the Pentagon.

Of 70 total restricted and unrestricted reports throughout the three military service academies — covering everything from unwanted sexual contact to rape — 15 came from the Naval Academy.

That’s an increase from 13 reports in the 2011-12 school year. However, reports decreased overall at the service academies, down from 80 in the 2011-12 school year. The U.S. Military Academy saw a decrease from 15 to 10 reports, and the Air Force Academy dropped from 52 to 45.

“We cannot determine whether decrease was due to fewer assaults occurring or fewer victims opting to report,” Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Snow, director of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said at a Friday news conference.

Snow added that in focus groups and surveys, cadets and midshipmen identified peer pressure as a barrier to reporting. Naval Academy officials point to increased reporting as a sign of progress.

“While the number of reports here at the Naval Academy increased ... it is important to note that an increase in reporting indicates that we are successfully cultivating a climate where victims feel safe reporting assaults, one of the most underreported crimes in America,” academy spokesman Cmdr. John Schofield told Navy Times.

Of the 15 sexual assault reports at the Naval Academy, Schofield said, eight involved midshipmen accusing fellow mids.

The other seven involved incidents that either took place before the individual making the accusation entered the academy or involved mids accusing someone outside the school. Some mids, for example, have reported assaults that occurred in high school, preparatory school or other settings prior to their time at USNA. Others have reported assaults to the academy that happened when they were off campus which did not involve another student, Schofield said.

Of the 70 total reports throughout the academies, Snow said, 53 occurred while a cadet or midshipman was serving. All but one of those involved accusations of one academy student toward another.

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The exception was former Naval Academy instructor Marine Maj. Mark Thompson, who was sentenced to two months in jail last June for indecent acts and other infractions against two female midshipmen.

Strong SAPR efforts

The academy’s sexual assault prevention and response program is working hard to create a climate where mids can prevent these types of incidents, but still feel comfortable reporting them when they do happen, Schofield said.

“Each new class is briefed by the SAPR staff on their first day on campus, and all midshipmen receive over 30 hours of training and education over the course of their four years in the brigade,” he said. “This is more mandatory training and education than any other college or university in the country provides.”

The Pentagon’s report specifically mentioned sports teams and clubs as perpetrators of the problem. In July, team captains, company commanders and other brigade leaders participated in a leadership retreat, where sexual harassment and assault prevention was a central theme.

In addition to regular SAPR training, superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller met with all 33 varsity sports teams last fall to reinforce behavior expectations. All Naval Academy Athletic Association employees met with SAPR staff, attending training and participated in a sexual assault standdown.

Despite fewer assault reports, Dr. Elizabeth P. Van Winkle, from the Defense Manpower Data Center, said her focus groups and surveys on campuses found that 80 percent to 90 percent of female cadets and midshipmen have experienced sexual harassment from their peers.

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