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More sex assaults reported at service academies

Dec. 19, 2012 - 09:29PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 19, 2012 - 09:29PM  |  
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WASHINGTON — Reported sexual assaults at the nation's three military academies jumped by 23 percent overall this year, but the data signaled a continued reluctance by victims to seek criminal investigations.

According to a report obtained by The Associated Press, the number of assaults rose from 65 in the 2011 academic year to 80 in 2012. However, nearly half the assaults involved victims who sought confidential medical or other care and did not trigger an investigation. There were 41 assaults reported in 2010.

Reported sexual assaults have climbed steadily since the 2009 academic year. The Defense Department has urged the academies to take steps to encourage cadets and midshipmen at the academies to report sexual harassment and assaults in order to get care to everyone and hold aggressors accountable. The number of assaults reported by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., increased, while reports at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., declined.

In addition to the sexual assault report, the military also is releasing the results of its biannual anonymous survey of academy students, which showed that 12 percent of the women said they experienced "unwanted sexual contact" and 51 percent said they were sexually harassed. Of the men, 2 percent experienced unwanted contact and 10 percent said they were sexually harassed.

Officials are concerned whenever the number of reported sexual assaults goes down while the anonymous survey suggests that unwanted sexual contact goes up or stays the same. That's because military officials want victims to feel comfortable going to their superiors to report incidents.

The report divides the assaults into two categories, restricted and unrestricted. Unrestricted reports rose slightly from 38 last year to 42 this year, and those are provided to either law enforcement or military commanders for an investigation. Restricted reports jumped from 27 last year to 38 this year, and in those cases victims sought medical care and advocacy services but did not seek an official investigation.

According to the report, all three academies are now meeting department policies and requirements for training and the appointment of sexual assault response coordinators.

The report is expected to be made public later this week.

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