Pentagon releases report on sexual assault in military academies

Credit: CBSNews
Credit: CBSNews

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The pandemic hindered the Department of Defense’s annual effort to track sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military academies since students went home in mid-March 2020, according the most recent report that was released on Thursday. 

In the academic year 2019-2020, the department said it received 88 reports of sexual assault from a cadet or midshipman as a victim, a decrease from 122 reports the previous academic year.

Before the pandemic forced the academies to close their doors, the number of reports was on pace to match the previous year. The drop-off in reports occurred during the fourth quarter. 

The Sexual Assault and Prevention Response Office conducts an in-person survey every two years so midshipmen and cadets can anonymously respond to questions on sexual assault. . 

The division did not conduct the prevalence survey for the 2019-2020 academic year because in-person instruction ended. The division will wait until April 2022 to conduct the next survey. 

Without the prevalence survey, there is no data to compare how many sexual assaults were reported with how many instances of sexual assault or harassment may have occurred. 

In a call with reporters, SAPRO deputy director Nathan Galbreath said victim advocates were made available throughout the pandemic so students could report if they needed to report.. 

Galbreath said the prevalence survey would not have yielded scientifically significant numbers if conducted over the internet since response rates online do not match the rate when in person. 

Since 2014, the number of reports have increased until this year, and the most recent prevalence survey released in 2019 showed almost 16 percent of female midshipmen and cadets experienced unwanted conduct during the school year and two percent of men. 

Major General Clement Coward, the director of the sexual assault and prevention response office, told reporters while previewing the 2019-2020 annual report that “we are still far from where we need to be in this mission space.”