Since the Defense Department started keeping track of reports in 2006, this year’s study revealed the greatest numbers, and a prevalence poll revealed that one in every five female cadets and midshipmen had unwelcome sexual contact over the preceding year.
The number of reports among cadets and midshipmen increased from 131 the previous year to 155 for the academic year 2021–2022, with the U.S. Naval Academy seeing the biggest rise.
The results of the anonymous prevalence survey, which is typically conducted every two years but was unable to be conducted on time this time, were also made public.
With a high response rate, the survey is believed to be a more accurate picture than the actual reports that are filed and it estimated that incidents of unwanted sexual contact increased to 1,136 up from 737 in the 2018 survey.
That comes out to 21.4% of female cadets/midshipmen and 4.4% of males experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact in the prior year.
Those numbers represent significant increases over the previous survey that found 16.1% of female students and 2.6% of male students had experienced unwanted sexual contact.
The definition for unwanted sexual contact ranges from sexual harassment to rape.
“These numbers are extremely disappointing and upsetting,” Beth Foster, the head of the Defense Force Resiliency Office, told reporters in an audio briefing. “I mean, there’s really no other way to see it. Our cadets and midshipmen, our future military leaders, should be able to learn and grow in an environment free of sexual assault and harassment.”
She added, “And while these numbers are troubling, it is important to acknowledge that we’ve had a number of prior indicators that tell us that this problem may be getting worse.”
The association of alcohol with sexual assaults at the academies continues.
The report found that alcohol was involved in 61% of the unwanted sexual contacts for women and 58% among male victims. That includes alcohol involvement on the part of either the victim and/or the offender.
“We do know that alcohol is involved in more than half of these situations,” said Dr. Ashlea Klahr, Director, Health And Resilience Research, Office Of People Analytics. “When we look across the board we also see really different factors patterns depending on whether or not alcohol was involved.”
Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for sexual assault victims, released the following statement in response to Friday’s numbers.