COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– The number of sexual assaults at military academies increased nearly 60 percent in the past academic year, according to a new report by the Department of Defense.
Col. Reni Renner from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs said efforts by academies to encourage reporting of assaults could be the reason for the spike.
Sexual assaults at the nation’s three major military academies, Annapolis, West Point and the Air Force Academy, are on the rise. The three had a combined 41 cases from two years ago to 65 last year.
“Over time we’ve allowed more and more participation by women in the military services and they should be absolutely be free from sexual harassment of any kind,” said Naval Academy spokesman Rick Goldstein.
Renner said the numbers can be misleading because the actual assaults and attempted assaults have not increased but the numbers have gone up for three reasons, “Better training, more awareness and more trust in the system.”
Renner said because of new programs at the Air Force Academy, cadets are more aware of the problem and feel more comfortable reporting assaults.
“We really think it has a lot to do with the training and education and programs we’ve put in place to build confidence with the cadets that they have the ability to make these reports,” said Renner.
Renner said the numbers reflect a new awareness for the military academies. She believes cadets and midshipmen are marching in the right direction.
“When someone seeks the headline that assaults are up, you have to take that with a grain of salt. You really do. That’s one of the goals of the program- to increase reporting and that’s to help the victims and prosecute any cases that investigations show should be reported,” said Renner.
The Pentagon’s report also states that rape is the nation’s most under-reported crime.