Increase in reported sex crimes at Air Force Academy offers no simple explanations

By Associated Press

DENVER — Nine years after a sexual assault scandal at the Air Force Academy sent shock waves across the military, the Defense Department last month announced a spike in reported assaults at the school — and days later the Air Force filed sex-crime charges against three cadets.

It isn’t clear whether the disturbing news means sexual predation is on the rise at the academy, experts and school officials say. It could reflect the academy’s efforts to encourage cadets to report any kind of unwanted sexual contact.

“I don’t think anybody knows how to read that data,” said Lory Manning, director of the Women in the Military Project at the Women’s Research & Education Institute in Washington and a retired Navy captain.

The number of assaults reported at the academy since the 2005-06 school year, when comprehensive record-keeping began, has varied widely. From 10 in the first year, the totals rose to 24 two years later, plummeted to eight in 2008-09 and then rose again, to 20 in 2009-10 and 33 last year. Nearly 80 percent of the academy’s approximately 4,600 cadets are male.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday nearly 3,200 sexual assaults were reported across the military last year, but he said the real number is probably closer to 19,000 because so few victims report the crime.

Panetta said the Pentagon would prepare initiatives to reduce the number of assaults.

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