ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — The military is under fire for what’s being called an epidemic of sexual assault.
A Naval Academy graduate who claims she was assaulted tells Mary Bubala it’s time for top brass to take control.
The US Naval Academy in Annapolis is a source of pride for Maryland but lately it’s been tarnished by claims of a culture of coverup in the military.
“I was already asleep. I woke up being assaulted,” said the Naval Academy graduate.
She says an upper-class midshipman sexually assaulted her in her dorm room back in 2007.
“Hands held down, nose bloodied from the battle,” she said.
In an exclusive interview, the victim tells WJZ she reported what she says was a sexual assault, went to the hospital and testified against her alleged attacker.
“Coming forward didn’t change anything; reporting it didn’t change anything,” she said.
The Naval Academy tells WJZ the charges were dismissed because the “case lacked any physical evidence of a sexual assault” and the “victim’s version of events was inconsistent with every other witness’ testimony.”
Yet this former Midshipman claims she was assaulted and the academy failed to take appropriate action.
“It didn’t punish him; it didn’t punish anyone. It didn’t change rules,” she said.
The Pentagon conducted an anonymous survey which reveals 26,000 service members across the military claim they experienced unwanted sexual contact but only a tenth reported it.
Recently, more women in the military have come forward. President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have both said that ending this epidemic is critical.
“You have lost the trust of the men and women who rely on you that you will actually bring justice in these cases,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Senator Gillibrand and some of her colleagues want to turn over sexual assault cases to senior military lawyers instead of commanders.
“Not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape,” Gillibrand said.
“They laugh about it; it’s horrible,” the Naval Academy graduate said.
Commander Lyn Hammer is the new head of the Sexual Assault Prevention Program at the Naval Academy. She admits there are issues but says changes have already been made.
“This summer, the class of 2017 has been through four phases of sexual assault prevention and response training already. This is unprecedented for us,” Hammer said.
And necessary, according to the graduate.
“When you don’t speak out and you are not heard, it’s going to keep happening. It’s obviously not making anything better to stay quiet and deal with it on your own and I don’t want another 19-year-old or 20-year-old girl to go through that,” she said.
Support is growing for a bill to take military sexual assault cases out of the hands of the victim’s commander but it still faces tough opposition.