Cadets, Midshipmen See Less Sex Harassment, Survey Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 27, 2005 The climate at the U.S. military service academies regarding gender harassment and sexual assault has improved, a report commissioned by the Defense Department has found.
The "Service Academy 2005 Sexual Harassment and Assault Survey" Report indicates that training given to Air Force cadets to help them identify and report sexual harassment or assault is helping to reduce those types of incidents, Dr. Anita R. Lancaster, assistant director of the Defense Manpower Data Center, said Dec. 22. The DMDC conducted the congressionally mandated survey.
The survey was conducted between June 2004 and April 2005 and polled 2,033 women and 3,269 men attending the Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; and the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.
Lancaster said data gathered from Air Force cadets shows lower incident rates of sexual coercion (rape), sexual harassment, and overall sexist behavior than reported by students at the other two service schools.
She attributed this difference to the Air Force Academy's emphasis on providing prevention training so students can recognize and report sexual harassment or sex-related assaults. The Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo., was rocked three years ago by a spate of student allegations of gender harassment and sexual assault.
"I would assume it's related to the fact that the Air Force began focusing on this issue in 2002," Lancaster said, "and we've had three years worth of efforts that we're assessing here."
The survey said nearly all students polled at all of the service academies have received training on identifying or reporting sexual assault, and 78 to 88 percent of students polled at the three academies believed their training has helped to reduce sexual harassment and assault. Progress also is indicated by percentages of cadets and midshipmen who indicated sexual harassment (62 percent) and sexual assault (65 percent) have become less of a problem since they entered the academy, according to the survey report.
The sexual assault rates reported by the survey at the three service academies (5 percent of women and 1 percent of men) are similar to findings of percentages of sexual assaults experienced for both the active duty military and reserve populations, and with civilian populations of college age.
"Across all of the academies, it's very clear that the cadets and the midshipmen are getting good training," Lancaster said, "and that they know how to do these critical things that involve sexual assault or sexual harassment."
Lancaster said the three service academies remain focused on ensuring that cadets and midshipmen are trained how to identify and respond to sexual harassment or assault. "There's no doubt, according to the survey results, that they are paying attention to this issue," Lancaster said.
During the 2005 academic year, the academies expanded and enhanced programs to prevent sexual harassment and assault, improve care for victims and increase system accountability, according to a DoD news release. They also began implementation of a new, comprehensive anti-sexual-assault policy, increased training to include staff and faculty, and integrated the military preparatory schools into the department's sexual harassment and sexual assault training programs.
"The survey of cadets and midshipmen builds on the earlier work of the (DoD) inspector general, but gives us estimates that are formed in the same way as those for the force as a whole," David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, noted in a statement in the release.
"We are reviewing the findings carefully," Chu said in the statement, "and examining our policies, programs, and leadership efforts to determine how incidents of harassment and assault can be prevented and to ensure we respond effectively if they do occur."
A separate DoD-sponsored survey on sexual harassment and assault in the reserve components also was recently released.