(WASHINGTON) — The number of sexual assaults at the three military service academies spiked by 32% over last year, according to the Pentagon’s latest report on sexual harassment and released on Thursday.
But Pentagon officials cautioned that the increased numbers may not indicate an increased crime rate. They await a broader survey, expected to come out early next year, that measures rates of unwanted sexual contact.
According to the Pentagon’s latest figures there were 149 reports of sexual assault involving a cadet or midshipman as a victim and/or subject during the 2019-2019 academic year. That represents a 32% increase over the 117 incidents reported last year.
“We are encouraged that more cadets and midshipmen made reports of sexual assault this year,” Dr. Nate Galbreath, acting director of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program said in a statement. “Our program empowers those who experience sexual assault to connect with restorative care. Greater reporting by Service members has been a priority for the Department since the creation of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program in 2005.”
The Pentagon, in a press release, still cautioned that the 32% increase “should not be interpreted as an increase in crime rate.”
“The increase in reporting cannot be interpreted until next year’s prevalence survey, which estimates rates of unwanted sexual contact,” according to the Pentagon press release.
The anonymous survey of 12,000 students, carried out every two years, is cited by Pentagon officials as providing a better snapshot of the rate of sexual assault in the schools. However, the prevalence survey released last year was of major concern to Pentagon officials because it showed a nearly 50% increase in unwanted sexual contact at the three academies.
Officials said at the time they were encouraged that the number of incidents reported directly to authorities had remained relatively unchanged at 117, but this year’s numbers have now increased by a third.
“Our Academies produce our future leaders. At every turn, we must drive out misconduct in place of good order and discipline. Our data last year, and the findings from this year’s report, reflect the progress we have made in some areas, and the significant work that remains,” said Elizabeth Van Winkle, the executive director of the Office of Force Resiliency in a statement.
“We will not falter in our efforts to eliminate these behaviors from our Academies and to inculcate our expectation that all who serve are treated, and treat others, with dignity and respect.”
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