WASHINGTON — Reports of sexual assaults increased at two of the three national military academies — the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis and the United States Military Academy at West Point — last year, according to a new military study.
The Defense Department said that reports of sexual assault at all three academies decreased over all, but that is because the number of reports at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado dropped.
At West Point, there were 26 reports of sexual assault in the 2015-16 academic year, up from 17 the year before. At the Naval Academy, the number rose to 28 reports from 25. By comparison, reports dropped steeply to 32 from 49 at the Air Force Academy.
The reports will rekindle a problem that has plagued the military as increasing numbers of women join the armed services. The increase in sexual assault reports in the service academies is similar to what is happening in the military as a whole, and comes at the same time that the Defense Department is grappling with news reports about Marines and other service members sharing nude photos of their female peers on websites.
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 under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said in a letter to Congress submitting the report.
The Defense Department did try to put a positive spin on the latest numbers, saying that more people were feeling emboldened to report sexual abuse.
The new study comes as the Marine Corps has been rocked by disclosures that an all-male, invitation-only group on Facebook called Marines United shared thousands of nude and other private photos of Marine Corps women. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has harshly criticized such violations of privacy and betrayals of trust, and has signaled that he will hold military and civilian officials accountable.
At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee sharply rebuked the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. Robert B. Neller, about why nothing had been done since the first reports of online harassment came to light in 2013.
“If we can’t crack Facebook, how are we supposed to be able to confront Russian aggression and cyberhacking throughout our military?” demanded Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York.
General Neller responded: “I don’t have a good answer for you.”
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