Sexual Assaults Up 64% at Military Academies
By Michelle Garcia
Sexual assaults at the nation's top military academies rose 64% during the 2009-2010 academic year, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.
Between the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, and West Point, 41 sexual assaults were reported, up from 25 in the 2008-2009 year. Furthermore, the department estimates that the 41 assaults only represent less than 10% of total sexual assaults, as most incidents go unreported. Some of the common reasons cited by cadets and midshipmen for not reporting the incidents included dealing with the incident themselves, fearing gossip, feeling the incident was not important enough to report, and feeling uncomfortable making a report.
Of the 41 reports, only 17 were referred to commanders for action. Four cases were recommended for courts-martial, three were subjected to administrative discipline, and the remaining seven received in-school discipline, according to the Service Women's Action Network.
"The longest sentence that the military handed out in these academy rape cases was only 3-1/2 years in prison," said Anuradha Bhagwati, executive director of SWAN. "The fact that an individual can plead guilty to raping a fellow cadet and receive punishments like demerits or additional duty instead of jail time is unconscionable."
The study comes right after SWAN joined with the American Civil Liberties Union to demand that the Defense Department release records documenting incidents of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment in the military. According to the organization, tens of thousands of service members each year are estimated to have experienced some form of military sexual trauma.
“The reality today is that military academies are insular environments where sexual predators face little risk of prosecution, and survivors have little hope for institutional protections,” Bhagwati said in a press release Thursday. “The academies integrated in 1976 and it took 30 years before a West Point cadet was convicted on a rape charge. Although cadets are finally being prosecuted for sexual offenses, the punishment rarely fits the crime. To change the current culture of impunity, we must hold military leaders accountable by demanding that they support survivors and relentlessly prosecute sexual predators.”
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