Sex Assault Reports Up At Naval Academy, West Point

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A new report shows sexual assaults at two military academies, including the Naval Academy here in Maryland, have spiked over the last several years, despite efforts to prevent it in the first place.

One legal expert tells WJZ’s George Solis this is nothing new, and just follows a history of misconduct at military academies and bases.

For the fifth straight year, reports show sexual assaults have gone up at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

The report did reveal a decrease in sexual assault cases at the Air Force Academy in Colorado

The Department of Defense released their findings Wednesday, showing a steady increase from 2011, when 13 cases were reported, compared to last year, when that number jumped to 28 cases.

Pentagon officials say more people are reporting assaults because students have more confidence in the system’s ability to help.

Attorney Susan Burke, who’s represented military sex assault victims, tells WJZ she’s not surprised by the increase.

“The military has repeatedly claimed that they are tackling this problem,yet their not,” said Burke. “There’s only two issues: are they incompetent or do they lack the will to fix it? And either of those is very troubling.”

In a statement, Naval Academy officials say the increase shows they still have work to do, calling the behavior “toxic,” but some are skeptical any real change will occur.

Particularly because the report also shows an increase in assaults at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The info comes at a time the U.S. military deals with the Marine Corps. nude photo scandal that’s now being investigated across all branches.

Experts say change can begin at the academy level, where accused attackers could go on to become the future leaders in the military.

“How likely do you think it is that that individual – when he then assumes command – is ever going to prosecute others for rape?,” asked Burke. “We’re embedding a problem of a lack of a will to prosecute right into the system.”

The Naval Academy released the following statement:

“At the Naval Academy we have been forthright and honest about our SAPR program and we have one of the, if not the most, robust sexual assault harassment and assault prevention and education programs in the country. Even though we have a long-range downward trend in prevalence since 2010, this latest increase demonstrates we still have work to do. Our program uses evidence-based training and we continuously evaluate feedback from our resilient midshipmen and seek ways to improve our program throughout every year.

“USNA’S program is focused on the future and on continuing to train and educate the Brigade of Midshipmen with the goal of eliminating sexual harassment and assault from our ranks. This kind of toxic behavior cannot be tolerated. We need to do our very best to provide our future leaders with the knowledge and tools to recognize inappropriate behavior and to take positive, deliberate steps to stamp it out. This is a challenging effort considering the fact that 25% of the Brigade turns over every year through graduation and the arrival of a new class every summer. Our program is constantly evolving in order to ensure its effectiveness within the Brigade and we continue to work with experts from our fellow military service academies, as well as civilian educational institutions, on what other actions we can take to create and inspire innate behavioral change.”

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