New DOD Report Shows Significant Rise in Sexual Harassment Reports at Military Academies

New DOD Report Shows Significant Rise in Sexual Harassment Reports at Military Academies
West Point graduates stand as they prepare to receive their diplomas during the 2022 West Point Commencement Ceremony at West Point Military Academy in West Point, New York, on May 21, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
A new report (pdf) released on March 9 by the Department of Defense, shows a significant rise in sexual assaults at U.S. military academies during the 2021–22 school year.

The report revealed that there have been increases in unwanted sexual contact across the board, involving both men and women. The report covered the Army, Navy, as well as Air Force schools.

More than 20 percent of women reported unsolicited sexual contact, according to a student survey. This includes anything from “completed penetration, attempted penetration, and unwanted touching.”

The figure shows an increase of more than 5 percent from 2018, when the survey was last conducted, as a result of pandemic restrictions. The rate for men has nearly doubled from 2.6 percent to 4.4 percent, during the same period.

According to the Pentagon, the figures reiterate an urgent need for reform implementation.

Moreover, the report reveals that in 60 percent of cases of unsolicited sexual contact, the consumption of alcohol was involved.

Across the three academies, a total of 206 cases of sexual assault were reported. According to the congressionally mandated annual report, the figure is up by nearly a third from last year’s figure of 161 reports.

Meanwhile, the number of overall sexual harassment complaints has also increased by over 30 percent from 2018. The figures show an increase from 30 to 40, across the three academies, with the majority coming from The U.S. Military Academy—closely followed by the U.S. Air Force Academy.

According to the acting director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, Nate Galbreath, no single solution to the problem exists.

“We’re working very deliberately with academy leadership to provide cadets and midshipmen places to live and learn that are free from sexual assault and sexual harassment,” he said in a statement.

“However, the military justice reforms, prevention initiatives, and survivor care enhancements we have underway for the military as a whole are the solution set for the academies as well.”

In 2022—prompted by the “I Am Vanessa Guillén Act” in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act—President Joe Biden signed an executive order. The order made sexual harassment or unsolicited sexual contact an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The directive came after intense criticism over the military’s failure to act on preventing incidences of sexual misconduct.

Prior to this in 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that one of his top priorities was to combat unwanted sexual behavior in the U.S. military. This, however, was impacted by the COVID pandemic, which slowed down reports during shortened school terms.

The most recent figures emerged following reports of sexual misconduct at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy earlier in March.

Included in the survey were also civilians, troops in active service, as well as prep school students, who were reportedly victims of indecent sexual attempts by students at the academy. Additionally, students were encouraged to include reports of sexual assault prior to enrolling their respective academies, which resulted in 16 students coming forward.