- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Women at U.S. military academies say they have faced 302 incidents of sexual assault since they enrolled, a figure the military says is comparable to civilian schools.

“We are about where college campuses are, tragically. That’s not, frankly, terribly surprising,” said David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

Yesterday, he announced the results of the Pentagon’s first comprehensive study of assaults at the academies, along with a new militarywide policy aimed at protecting the confidentiality of people who report being sexually assaulted.

A summary of the inspector general’s survey said that of the incidents, about a third — or 96 — were reported to authorities. But Pentagon officials who told Congress of the survey results yesterday provided documents during a briefing that indicated the women said they reported only 22 of the incidents.

Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz surveyed cadets and midshipmen at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis last spring on an anonymous basis to gauge the scope and reporting of sexual assaults.

About 97 percent of women at the academies — 1,906 — responded to the survey. Because of the large number of men at the academies, surveyors used a random statistical sample of 30 percent of the men — or 3,107 — evenly distributed and represented across the academies.

More than 50 percent of female respondents and 11 percent of male respondents indicated experiencing some type of sexual harassment since entering the schools, the executive summary said.

Both the survey and the policy are in response to sexual assault issues in the armed forces and a scandal at the Air Force Academy that surfaced in January 2003. It led to reviews of the military’s sexual assault policies and the departures of the academy’s leadership.

Last year, nearly 150 women came forward with accusations that they had been sexually assaulted by fellow cadets between 1993 and 2003. Many said they were punished, ignored or ostracized by commanders for speaking out.

The men polled said there were 55 incidents of sexual assault since they entered the schools.

Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican, called the survey results disturbing and disappointing. “Unfortunately, we have a serious problem at all the service academies that is going to require a concerted effort of the services, Congress and the alumni to address,” he said.

Under the new policy, victims now will be able to confidentially disclose details of sexual assault to a health-care provider, a designated sexual assault response coordinator or a victim’s advocate and receive medical treatment without triggering an official investigation.

Currently, victims can report assaults to chaplains confidentially and without fear that an investigation will be started. That will not change.

The service branches have until mid-June to implement the policy, and Mr. Chu said he expected the number of reported incidents to rise because of it.

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