Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Sexual Assaults At Military Service Academies Up Nearly 50 Percent Over 2 Years, Pentagon Finds
Incidents of sexual assault and other unwanted sexual contact at the three military service academies have spiked nearly 50 percent since 2016, defense officials announced on Thursday.
The term "unwanted sexual contact" is used to describe behaviors that constitute sexual assault under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including rape, aggravated sexual contact, and abusive sexual contact, said Nate Galbreath, deputy director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.
A total of 747 midshipmen and cadets responded that they had been the victim of unwanted sexual contact as part of a biennial survey, compared with 507 victims in 2016, Galbreath told reporters on Thursday as the Pentagon released its annual report on sexual harassment and violence at the military service academies.
"That's a large increase," Galbreath said.
At West Point, 273 cadets responded on the survey that they were victims of sexual assault, Galbreath said. Meanwhile, 254 midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy indicated they had been sexually assaulted, and 221 cadets at the Air Force Academy said they were sexual assault victims. (The reason those three numbers total to 748 is due to rounding, Galbreath explained.)
Many incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment occur at unsupervised events off campus or after hours, he said. West Point saw the biggest increase in both incidents and reports of sexual assault, Galbreath said.
"There is no room in the U.S. Army for sexual harassment or sexual assault," Army Secretary Mark Esper and Chief Of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said in a statement on Thursday. "This is a readiness issue that affects our ability to prepare to fight and win our nation's wars as much as it is an issue of values. As such, we have directed the West Point leadership to report back with an updated action plan in the coming weeks."
After claiming for years that increased reports of sexual assault at the service academies showed the success of reporting programs, defense officials acknowledged on Thursday that the most recent data show the problem is getting worse.
"Unfortunately, the findings show that the rates of sexual misconduct at the academies has increased again," said Elizabeth Van Winkle, executive director of the Pentagon's Office of Force Resiliency. "We find these results to be frustrating, and unacceptable.
"We do not believe the trends in this report reflect the time, energy and commitment dedicated to eliminating sexual misconduct in the service academies. Instead, the treads are a reflection of the pervasiveness of this misconduct and the difficulty in sustaining a culture change over time."
Top service leaders remain committed to curbing sexual assaults at the service academies, but Galbreath conceded that the Defense Department's efforts have not yielded results so far.
"What we're not seeing is all of our programs, our response system that we put in place, our prevention efforts, they're not translating into the behavior change we need cadets and midshipmen to have in order to stop this," Galbreath said.
Neither Galbreath nor any of the other defense officials briefing reporters on Thursday offered any concrete solutions to fix the rising rates of sexual assault and harassment at the service academies.
"We are assessing what we can do across the life cycle of the midshipman and cadet, and that is from the time that they come in to the time that they graduate, and as a result we know that there's things that we need to do in order to motivate them," Galbreath said.
"It's not just a training solution; it's policy changes as well," he continued. "Each academy and each of the service secretaries are using this data to check their plans and formulate new ways ahead."
Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for victims of sexual assault in the military, is calling on Congress to hold hearings on the increasing incidents of sexual assault at the service academies.
"It is time for the president and Congress to replace military leadership who have failed to stem the tide of sexual assault and harassment," retired Air Force Col. Don Christensen, president of the group, said in a news release. "Holding senior leaders responsible will send a clear message that not only can the academies do better, but they must do better."
WATCH NEXT: The Women Veterans Battling PTSD
Little girls everywhere will soon have the chance to play with a set of classic little green Army soldiers that actually reflect the presence of women in the armed forces.
My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead
"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
The leader of a Chicago-area street gang has been arrested and charged with attempting to aid the ISIS terrorist group, the Department of Justice said Friday.
Jason Brown, also known as "Abdul Ja'Me," allegedly gave $500 on three separate occasions in 2019 to a confidential informant Brown believed would then wire it to an ISIS fighter engaged in combat in Syria. The purported ISIS fighter was actually an undercover law enforcement officer, according to a DoJ news release.
U.S. military officials may have abandoned their dreams of powered armor straight out of Starship Troopers, but the futuristic components of America's first prototype combat exoskeleton could eventually end up in the arsenals of both U.S. special operations forces and conventional troops.
Supreme Court to consider whether military personnel can be prosecuted for rape long after the crime occurred
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider whether military personnel can be prosecuted for rape long after the crime occurred in an appeal by President Donald Trump's administration of a lower court ruling that overturned the rape conviction of an Air Force captain.