Reports of sexual assault increased by 25% and reports of sexual harassment increased by 150% at US military academies during the 2020-2021 academic year compared to the previous academic year, according to a Defense Department report released Thursday.
The three US military academies received 161 reports of sexual assault compared to 129 reports the previous academic year – an increase of 32 reports, according to the department’s Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies. A total of 30 complaints of sexual harassment were made during the 2020-2021 academic year compared to 12 reports the year before, an increase of 18.
The Defense Department said the reason for the increase in reports of sexual assault and harassment “is unclear,” because the department “did not administer a scientific prevalence survey this year,” the report said.
Acting Director of the Sexual Assault Response Office Nate Galbreath speculated on the reasons for the increase during a media call Thursday, saying “either that there was more crime to report or that people overall were encouraged or feel more confident in making those reports.”
The report collects information from the three US military academies: the US Military Academy, the US Naval Academy and the US Air Force Academy. The academic year is from June 1, 2020, to May 31, 2021.
Out of the 161 reports of sexual assault where cadets and midshipmen attending the military academies were the victim or alleged offender, 131 of those reports were from people reporting incidents that occurred during military service, 14 reports were from incidents that occurred prior to military service, and 16 reports were made by “active-duty service members, civilians or prep school students,” the report said.
Out of the 30 sexual harassment complaints made in the 2020-2021 academic year, nine of them were formal complaints and 21 were informal complaints.
“We recognize this is a troubling problem, it’s a horrible thing to have to experience, and we are here to help make sure that it happens less often and that victims get the kind of care and support,” Galbreath said.
Galbreath also highlighted the findings of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military over the past year. Galbreath said the military academies are working to implement the IRC’s recommendations.