REPORT: Rise in rape and sexual assault reports at military academies follows trend in academia

Sexual harassment and assault reports at US military academies for the 2021-2022 academic year is the highest on record, according to a Department of Defense spokesperson.

The trend at US military academies follows that of civilian academia downplaying the significance of sexual violence in a multitude of ways.

Over 21% of female and 4% of male students at the three US military academies self-identified as being victims of sexual assault or rape, according to the 2021-2022 Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence released by the Department of Defense (DOD) on Friday.

Preliminary results of the report were released early Friday morning by the Associated Press, as Campus Reform previously reported.

The DOD conducts investigations of sexual assault and harassment at the US Military Academy at West Point in New York, the US Naval Academy in Maryland, and the US Air Force Academy in Colorado on a two-year rotation. Studies published in even years consist of student surveys, while studies published in odd years are site visit reports based upon the prior year’s findings.

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Executive Director of the Office of Force Resiliency Beth Foster said in an exclusive press briefing on Friday that the 2021-2022 year findings were the highest on record since the measurement of assault and harassment statistics began in 2006.

A total of 155 cases of rape or sexual assault were recorded and investigated during the 2021-2022 academic year. Based upon the anonymous survey results, only 14% of assaults at the US military academies were reported to leadership.

The report also reveals that all three categories of sexual assault—penetration, attempted penetration, and unwanted touching—increased at all three institutions for both male and female students.

Sexual harassment at military academies is alarming as well.

Approximately 63% of female students and 20% of male students reported experiencing sexual harassment during the past school year. Data discussed in the press briefing also presents a high correlation between experiencing sexual harassment and then experiencing unwanted sexual contact.

During the press briefing, Foster called the results “extremely disappointing and upsetting.”

Much of the increase comes from the Naval Academy, which documented 61 instances of assault, as Campus Reform has previously reported.

Vice Admiral Sean Buck, superintendent of the Naval Academy, told military magazine Stars and Stripes, “The current situation is unacceptable and we must improve our culture.”

While military academies are unique environments that differ in many ways from civilian institutions, Campus Reform has a long history of reporting how the culture of academia in general has a tendency to downplay the significance of sexual assault on campuses.

A sex expert who was hired to give X-rated advice to students at the University of Maryland in College Park in 2015, for example, refused to directly answer a student’s question as to whether sex positivity is connected to increased rates of sexual violence.

Along similar lines, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York advised the incoming freshman class of 2017 that masturbation was essential to prevent sexual assault, using the acronym ROO—“Rub One Off”—with a picture of the Winnie the Pooh character of the same for the presentation. RIT later apologized for being insensitive.

More recently, Campus Reform reported on a PhD candidate at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville who published a paper arguing that women only fear rape “as a direct result of gendered, racialized power relations.” The paper asserts that “White” “Republican” women are to blame for sexual violence and the violence of criminal justice institutions that investigate and prosecute sex crimes.

[RELATED: Public university’s ‘Sex Week’ features ‘Chicanx sexuality’, BDSM gear maintenance]

With respect to this problem at military academies, officials expressed their dedication to reducing instances of sexual assault and harassment.

“We’re working very deliberately with academy leadership to provide cadets and midshipmen places to live and learn that are free from sexual assault and sexual harassment,” said Nate Galbreath, Acting Director of the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

Only 59% of female students and 76% of male students trust Military Service Academy senior leaders to address these problems, according to the report.

The DOD responded to Campus Reform’s initial request for comment with an invitation to the press briefing on Friday.

Follow Gabrielle M. Etzel on Twitter.