BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Reports of sexual assaults in the military has more than doubled since 2012, but survivors say more needs to be done to protect the victims and end a toxic culture that goes beyond the military.
“I was raped not once but twice, both times by fellow classmates in company I had to face everyday,” said former midshipman Annie Kendzior.
The victims described their sexual assaults in painful detail.
“My surgeon advised me when he walked in that he was unsure due to the inflammation and potential for scarring if I would ever be able to bare children,” said former cadet Stephanie Gross.
Four women testified before congress about their experience of reporting their assaults in the nation’s prestigious military academies, to give better insight on how they can improve response and prevent the vicious crimes.
“Perpetrators of these heinous acts often go unpunished, graduate, reinforcing this criminal abhorrent behavior,” said Rep. Jackie Speier on the congressional panel.
Many also fear being mistreated after coming forward about sexual assaults. More than half of the victims say they were retaliated against by either peers or superiors.
“In the months prior to my resignation, I was subjected to many negative personal actions with a pattern that indicated reprisal,” Gross said.
Three of the women told Congress they felt forced to leave their academies after reporting their sexual assaults.
The hearing was difficult for the survivors who felt it was necessary to tell their stories, during a time when sexual scandals are on the rise at both the U.S. Naval and military academies.
“These crimes have no place in our society much less in our primitive military services,” said panel chairman Rep. Mike Coffman.
Congressional leaders promise to reform policies and break a disturbing trend.
While both the U.S. Naval and military academies saw an increase in sexual assault reports, the Air Force Academy saw the opposite, reports actually dropped last year.
Officials say they are encouraged by the decline in overall cases but acknowledge it is still a major problem that is far from being fixed.