By Rick Ritter

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A surge in sexual assaults. New reports show a sharp increase in crime between three military academies, including the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Rick Ritter has more on the concering numbers.

The Naval Academy has battled scrutiny over the years for the way they handle sexual assault claims, but they feel the number of people coming forward is trending in the right directions.

One victim after the other — some scarred for life — stories of sexual assault that are no stranger to the military.

A new report shows between the Naval Academy, West Point and the Air Force, there were 91 reported sexual assaults last school year — 32 more than the previous year.

The number of sexual harassment complaints surged by 40 percent — 13 at the Naval Academy — something they’ve made a priority to address over the years.

“With everybody on board, midshipmen are now hearing it in the classroom. It’s part of their curriculum,” said Commander Lyn Hammer, U.S. Naval Academy.

The increase raises questions about whether the numbers are truly on the rise or if more victims feel safe coming forward.

The Naval Academy released a statement, saying in part: “It’s important to note that an increase in reporting indicates that we are successfully cultivating a climate where victims feel safe reporting assaults.”

“I was so dismayed and disappointed. How the Department of Defense can possibly call that success is just beyond me,” said Susan Burke, local attorney.

Burke represents several victims who have filed suit in the past, saying the department repeatedly fails to terminate sexual harassers.

“They try to put lipstick on a pig by saying, ‘Oh, we’re so glad the reporting’s going up.’ Nowhere, nowhere in that report do they address accountability,” she said.

Adding that after years, it’s still a lingering issue.

The Naval Academy added in their statement that the report is not cause for celebration and does not represent a finish line in any way.

Officials said a key recommendation for the academies this year is to put more emphasis on sexual harassment prevention and training because harassment leads to assault.

The Air Force Academy had the biggest increase in reports of sexual assaults, jumping from 25 to nearly 50.

Rick Ritter