Military academy sex assaults up 64 percent

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Reported sexual assaults at the three U.S. military academies rose 64 percent in the 2009-10 academic year compared with the previous year, the Defense Department said today.

The largest year-over-year increase came from the Air Force Academy.

Officials said the increase could reflect that more students are reporting assaults, rather than a jump in the number of assaults themselves.

A total of 41 sexual assaults involving students were reported to authorities at West Point, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy in 2009-10. In the previous academic year, 25 were reported.

The Air Force Academy had the largest increase, from eight reported sexual assaults in 2008-09 to 20 in 2009-10, a jump of 150 percent.

West Point – officially, the U.S. Military Academy – in West Point, N.Y., reported 10 assaults in 2009-10, an increase of one.

The Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Md., reported 11 assaults in 2009-10, an increase of three.

The Pentagon estimates that fewer than 10 percent of sexual assaults at the academies are reported.

The statistics are in the Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies, issued by the Defense Department annually.

The latest report outlines each academy’s efforts to improve training and reporting and to improve the “climate of victim confidence” to encourage victims to report attacks.

The report calls the increase in reported assaults “concerning.”

A survey of students at all three academies found that 56 percent of the women and 12 percent of the men reported they experienced sexual harassment, the military said.

The survey, conducted last spring, was voluntary. The military said 88 percent of the students participated.

The report says the military will develop a standardized process for evaluating progress at all three academies, and that Department of Defense officials will visit each campus as part of the next evaluation process.