Reports of sexual assaults rose more than 18 percent at the country’s three military academies between 2021 and 2022, hitting a new high, with more than 1 in 5 students reporting being the victim of unwanted sexual conduct, according to a published report. on Friday by the Pentagon. .

«Unfortunately, this year’s report shows a significant increase in the prevalence of sexual assaults at military service academies,» said Beth Foster, executive director of the Defense Department’s Office of Force Resilience. «Our numbers indicate that this is the highest estimated sexual assault prevalence rate for both women and men in military service academies since the department began measuring this in 2006. These numbers are extremely disappointing and disturbing.»

In 2022, 155 cadets and midshipmen reported sexual assaults during military service, up from 131 in 2021.

The Naval Academy, which has more than 4,500 students, saw the largest increase from the 2021 school year to 2022, with reported assaults rising from 33 to 61, or nearly 100 percent. Numbers at the Air Force Academy, with about 4,000 students, were flat at 52 a year, while numbers at West Point, which has 4,300 students, dropped from 46 to 42.

Results from a survey of students at the three academies administered this year showed that both men and women reported more incidents of unwanted sexual behavior. In total, more than 1,100 students said they had been victims.

Alcohol was a major contributing factor: the victim or alleged offender had consumed alcohol in more than half of the cases. For female victims, more than 60 percent of the unwanted contacts involved alcohol, according to Foster.

In the survey, more than 21 percent of female students reported unwanted sexual conduct, up from 16.4 percent in the last survey, which was conducted in 2018.

More than 27 percent of sophomores reported unwelcome behavior, the highest for any class.

Nate Galbreath, acting director of the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), said the high numbers of sophomores may be related to the change in environment from freshman to sophomore years in academies. .

«As a freshman, cadets leave a very cloistered life,» Galbreath said. «There’s a lot of restriction on movement and freedom. When you become a sophomore, there’s a lot more freedom… We think it’s that significant change in status from a freshman to a sophomore that exposes the people at higher risk.

The authors noted that reports of unwanted sexual conduct in academies have increased in every student survey since 2014.

The surveys have been administered every two years since 2006, but no surveys were conducted during the Covid pandemic in 2020.

This year’s survey also found that a third of female students had experienced unwanted behavior before entering military academies, an increase from a quarter in the 2018 survey.

In response to the report, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a series of steps to «reverse damaging trends» at military service academies. His directives are intended to prevent incidents, educate students, assess the environment in each of the academies, and help survivors recover from assaults. He also said more is needed to prevent assault victims and alleged perpetrators from taking classes together or being «in physical proximity.»

“As I have emphasized since taking office, I hope that every Total Force member is part of the solution to countering sexual assault and harassment,” Austin said. “These corrosive behaviors require your immediate attention.”

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