Training Ground for Abuse? Sexual Assault Reports Are Increasing at Two Military Academies

According to a report by the Department of Defense, two of the three national military academies have seen increased reports of sexual assault in the last year.

The United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, and the United States Military Academy at West Point, saw increases in sexual assault reports. The number of reports at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado decreased.

In 2015-2016, 26 sexual assaults were reported at West Point, which is up from 17 the previous year. 28 sexual assaults were reported in the Navy Academy, up from 25 the previous year. 32 sexual assaults were reported in the Air Force Academy, which was a decrease from 49 the previous year.

Certainly, declines in sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy would be something to celebrate. However, the number of reports are still higher than West Point and the Navy Academy. And further, research shows that typically 2 out of 3 sexual assaults go unreported, so it is likely that the number of reports across all three military academies are lower than the true number of assaults occurring every year.[1]

As reported by the New York Times:

The Defense Department acknowledged that even as reports of sexual assaults increased, many young men and women who are assaulted do not report it. “Results from this year’s report demonstrate that estimated instances of sexual assault and sexual harassment greatly outnumber reports made to authorities,” Anthony M. Kurta, who is performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said in a letter to Congress submitting the report

The Defense Department’s anonymous survey found that 48 percent of women, and 12 percent of men, in these academies experiences sexual harassment in the last year.

“These experiences largely involved hostile work environment situations (pervasive and severe unwanted sexual attention, comments or jokes made at their expense),” the Pentagon wrote in a statement.

Rates of unwanted sexual contact, or sexual misconduct, have also increased.

“Overall, about 12 percent of academy women and 2 percent of academy men indicated experiencing unwanted sexual contact in the year prior to being surveyed,” the Pentagon wrote in its report. “These rates are statistically higher than rates observed in 2014, and are statistically similar to unwanted sexual contact rates observed in 2010 and 2012.”

The military continues to struggle to adequately address its crisis of sexual assault or recent scandals of nude photo-sharing that mount to cyber-based sexual harassment and abuse.

In this context, the increasing rates of sexual assault and harassment in military academies are especially concerning and raise the question—are military academies serving as training grounds for the sexual abuse of fellow servicemen and servicewomen?

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has created a robust list of policy recommendations to combat the full spectrum of sexual exploitation, including within the military branches. To learn more about these solutions visit


[1] i. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2010-2014 (2015); ii. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Incident-Based Reporting System, 2012-2014 (2015);  iii. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Incident-Based Reporting System, 2012-2014 (2015); iv. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2009 (2013)


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