WASHINGTON — The U.S. military service academies last year recorded the highest rate of sexual assault since the Defense Department started measuring the problem in 2006.
That’s according to the Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies, Academic Program Year 2021-2022.
That report states formally-reported incidents of sexual assault went up by 18% to 155 cases, compared to the previous year’s total of 131 reports.
Broken down by individual schools, the report shows that it was the worst at the United States Naval Academy, with 23.1% of women and 4.6 % of men reporting unwanted sexual contact.
The United States Air Force Academy came in second place and the United States Military Academy at West Point came in third.
“I don’t find it surprising or shocking at all. I find it actually predictable and foreseeable,” said Sean Timmons, a former Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps attorney and current managing partner of the Tully Rinckey law firm’s Houston, Texas office.
Timmons said the military academy statistics reflect an overall systematic problem in the U.S. armed forces.
“We have to do a better job educating and training our young men to behave themselves properly,” he said. “And that starts with changing the culture, changing the recruiting criteria and it also starts with the military taking these cases a little more seriously, and giving some accurate preventive guidance that’s going to try to reduce these situations.”
In response to the report, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the superintendents of the military service academies to conduct “on-site installation evaluations.”
Those have to be completed before the end of April.
In a release published on the department’s website, Elizabeth Foster, Executive Director of the Office of Force Resiliency said:
“Preventing sexual assault remains one of the Department’s highest priorities, and the results of this report demonstrate that we must continue implementation of the unprecedented reforms underway. While change of this magnitude will take time, we owe it to our cadets and midshipmen – the Department’s future leaders – to redouble our efforts and ensure that this work is effective and enduring. No one should experience sexual assault. While we continue efforts to prevent these behaviors at our academies, we encourage survivors to come forward and make reports so we can connect them with recovery care, and aid efforts to hold offenders appropriately accountable.”