Military academies seeing 'alarming increase' in estimated sexual assault, harassment, Pentagon says

A survey conducted for the 2021-2022 academic year showed that most students did not report their assaults.

Published: March 12, 2023 8:58am

Updated: March 12, 2023 10:10am

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Military Service Academies saw an "alarming increase" in the estimated prevalence of sexual assault and harassment during last school year, while reported assaults increased 18% overall compared to the previous year, according to a new report. 

In the 2021-2022 school year, 155 reports were filed for sexual assaults that occurred at the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy or the U.S. Air Force Academy, according to a Defense Department report released Friday. This means reported assaults increased by about 18% at service academies from the previous year, which saw 131 reported assaults.

Total assault reports, which include civilian victims and incidents that occurred prior to military service, also increased dramatically from 161 in the 2020-2021 school year to 206 in the 2021-2022 school year, up 27%.

The report estimated that 21.4% of academy women and 4.4% of academy men indicated unwanted sexual contact within the previous year. The Defense Department's 2018 report stated that 15.8% of academy women and 2.4% of academy men experienced unwanted sexual contact within the previous 12 months.

A survey conducted for the 2021-2022 academic year showed that most students did not report their assaults. Of the more than 1,130 students who indicated experiencing unwanted sexual contact, 155 reported it to an official, putting the reporting rate at 14%. This places the reporting rate at less than half the national rate of 31%, according to anti-sexual violence organization RAINN.

The survey also found that of the roughly 12,700 service academy students, 63% of women and 20% of men indicated that they had experienced unwanted sexual harassment. 

In a memo to military department secretaries on Friday, Austin wrote that the academies "observed an alarming increase in the estimated prevalence of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other concerning behaviors. These corrosive behaviors require your immediate attention."

Austin urged officials to develop a plan of action to lower instances of assault and to support survivor recovery, among other things. 

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