The U.S. Department of Defense released a report this week indicating that allegations of unwanted sexual contact by men and women at the nation’s service academies dropped in 2014. The DOD has been tracking sexual harassment claims at the Army, Navy and Air Force academies for a number of years, pursuant to a mandate from Congress. Officials report approximately 200 fewer reported sexual assaults in 2014 than in 2012.
According to researchers who oversee the annual survey, the data gathering process differs each year, based on whether it an odd or even calendar year. In even calendar years, as in 2014, service academy personnel are asked to participate in an anonymous (and voluntary) survey. In 2014, approximately 2/3rds of all personnel responded, though more women (82%) than men (63%).
DOD officials say that the high percentage of responses gives them greater confidence in the accuracy of their assessments. According to the survey, just over 8% of female service academy personnel reported some level of unwanted sexual contact in 2014, down from 12.4% just two years earlier. The number of incidents reported by male personnel dropped 50% over the two year period, from two percent to one percent. Service academy personnel reported 53 sexual assaults in 2014, the same number as reported in 2013.
In odd calendar years, researchers actually visit each of the academies. During the onsite visit, researchers question victim advocates, medical providers, attorneys, sexual assault response coordinators and criminal investigators.
West Point, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy were exclusively available to men until the 1970s and have a history of sexism and harassment steeped in the male only tradition. Officials are encouraged by the trend in sexual harassment claims, but acknowledge that the problem still needs serious attention. According to Vice Admiral Walter E. Carter, Jr., “[we] don’t tell anybody that we’ve got this figured out. Not by a long shot. This has to be continually worked at.”
We offer a free initial consultation to anyone who has been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. Call us at 516-873-9550 or 212-661-4370 (toll-free at 1-800-585-4658) or send us an e-mail to schedule a meeting.