According to newly released data, sexual assaults that are reported at the U.S. military academies increased sharply through the 2020-2021 school year as students returned to the classroom amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
The hike continues on what officials say is an upward trend at those academies, even though new sexual assault prevention and treatment programs have been implemented.
Still, reports are difficult to compare from the past three years because the number of reports dropped at each academy during the 2019-2020 school year because it was shortened during the pandemic. At that time, in-person classes were canceled, and students were sent home to finish the spring semester online.
While there were fewer reports that year than the previous year, one defense official noted that based on the trends, the likely total would have shown an increase if students had been on post the whole year.
Additionally, the 2020-2021 school year numbers on sexual assaults was higher than the pre-pandemic year of 2018-2019.
The Pentagon released the report last Thursday detailing that the overall jump in cases had been driven particularly by increases at the Air Force Academy as well as the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
In total, there were 131 assaults reported by either cadets or midshipmen in the most recent school year, in comparison to 88 the previous year and 122 the year before that. Out of the 131, cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado reported 52 of the assaults, compared with 46 at West Point in New York and 33 at the U.S. Naval Academy, which is in Maryland.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth during a visit to West Point in early February met with the academy’s leaders, staff members, and cadets and discussed the sexual assault problem.
She noted that they talked about the Trust Program, which is led by cadets and assists in their training to address sexual assault and harassment and encourage intervention when they come across questionable behavior.
“West Point is working hard to increase cadets’ trust in their reporting system while at the same time preventing events from happening in the first place,” said Wormuth, adding that West Point has heightened resources for victims “to ensure the academy handles each case with care.”
ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: ABC17 NEWS