ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—As WJZ first reported, the U.S. Naval Academy is overhauling its sexual assault prevention program.
Mary Bubala reports beginning this fall, a strong anti-assault message will be sent to midshipmen from day one.
As the U.S. military and its training academies — including the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis — struggle with reports of sexual assault, commanders are trying to change the culture by overhauling prevention programs.
“This summer the class of 2017 has been through four phases of sexual assault prevention and response training already,” said Cmdr. Lyn Hammer.
That’s unprecedented, according to Cmdr. Hammer, the new program manager for sexual assault prevention and response at the Naval Academy.
In an interview with WJZ earlier this summer, the commander told us the difference is the message now involves every leader at the academy.
“With everybody on board, midshipmen are now hearing it in the classroom, it’s part of their curriculum. The coaches are now talking about it and coming up with creative ideas to be an advocate and support a better climate,” Cmdr. Hammer said.
But a WJZ investigation in July revealed another painful story.
A former midshipman says she was sexually assaulted at the academy.
“Hands held down, nose bloodied,” she described.
This, as three Navy football players are charged with sexually assaulting a female midshipman.
A Pentagon survey revealed more than 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted last year.
Congress has called on military leaders to make sweeping changes to reduce those numbers.
The U.S. Naval Academy says it’s answering that call with a consistent, pervasive message that midshipmen can’t ignore.
“They are keenly aware that this nation is concerned about sexual assault at the academy,” Hammer said.
Last week, the Pentagon announced its new plan to combat sexual assault in the military, which included new protection for victims.
Reports of sexual assault were up 36 percent last year military wide.