Sexual assault on military campuses reached a 10-year low during the 2013-2014 academic year, according to the DoD’s Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies released on February 11, 2015. However, sexual violence remains an issue on military campuses, particularly for female cadets and midshipmen.
The report, which focuses on the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, details that although unwanted sexual contact (USC) incident numbers in 2013-2014 were the lowest reported since the survey was first conducted in 2005, 8.2% of women enrolled at these academies and 1.1% of enrolled men experienced USC in 2013-2014. These percentages are down from the 2011-2012 program year when 12.4% of enrolled women and 2% of enrolled men reported USC.
According to a DoD press release, although incident rates of USC have declined among cadets, former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated that the mission is “far from complete.”
Although USC is decreasing, perceived sexual harassment (PSH) rates have increased. Fifty-five percent of women and 12% of men from the U.S. Marine Academy reported incidents of some PSH in 2014, up from 49% and 8%, respectively. However, 82% of women and 77% of men surveyed did not file official reports of the incidents due to perceived lack of significance.
The DoD report outlines 5 initiatives to further reduce USC and PSH:
- Establishing a forum for strategic dialogue between academies;
- Developing targeted interventions for sophomores who experience assaults at a higher rate than do other class years;
- Developing an educational program available anonymously to those coping with a history of sexual victimization;
- Improving sexual assault reporting; and
- Better addressing social and professional retaliation associated with sexual assault reporting, especially when such behavior occurs via social media.
“These survey results suggest that there were 200 fewer sexual assault victims in 2014 than in 2012,” said Major General Jeffrey J. Snow, the director of the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, in the DoD press release. “Although these rates are at the lowest they’ve been in the decade since the department began conducting the survey, we can and should do more. Every cadet and midshipman deserves a safe place to learn—free from sexual harassment and sexual assault.”