A recent Department of Defense report found that reports of sexual assault across the nation’s military academies increased 28% between the 2020–21 and 2021–22 school years. Of the 206 reports, 83% were from enrolled cadets and midshipmen, while the rest were made by academy graduates or civilians.
The increase appears to be driven by rising unwanted sexual contact for academy men and women, as well as a higher likelihood to report incidents: reporting rates were up 2 percentage points compared to the 2017–18 school year.
Twenty-one percent of female cadets and midshipmen and 4% of male cadets and midshipmen indicated in a biennial anonymous survey that they had experienced unwanted sexual contact in the 2021–22 academic year. However, only 14% of cadets who said they’d experienced unwanted sexual contact made a formal complaint.
Unwanted sexual contact encompasses a range of sex-related offenses that are banned by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. These offenses range from various unwanted touches to rape.
Rates were higher for sexual harassment than for sexual assault: 63% of academy women and 20% of academy men indicated on the anonymous survey that they’d experienced sexual harassment.
A military criminal investigative organization (MCIO) begins an investigation after a victim files an unrestricted report of assault or harassment. The MCIO relays its findings to the alleged perpetrator’s military commander or another senior military officer. This officer then decides whether the alleged perpetrator should be court-martialed, discharged from the military, or given a non-judicial punishment.
This data comes from a combination of the Defense Sexual Assault Database and the 2022 Service Academy Gender Relations Survey, conducted by the Office of People Analytics.
The Defense Sexual Assault Database stores private information from formal sexual assault reports. The survey, on the other hand, is anonymous. As most sexual assault incidents go unreported, the survey collects assault and harassment data that may not be documented in the database.
While the five military academies are the US Military Academy, the US Naval Academy, the US Air Force Academy, the US Coast Guard Academy, and the US Merchant Marine Academy, this report only included information on the US Military Academy, the US Naval Academy, and the US Air Force Academy.
While most of the reports are composed of academy students reporting an assault that happened at the academy, it also includes a small number of civilians who were victims of academy students, academy graduates who graduated before reporting an assault that happened during their time at the academy, academy prep school students, and current students reporting an assault that happened before they attended the academy.
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