By Lolita C. Baldor and Dan Elliott, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Reports of sexual assaults at the three major military academies surged in the 2014-15 school year, led by the Air Force Academy, where the number nearly doubled, the Defense Department said Friday.
Complaints of sexual harassment also spiked, the department said.
Pentagon officials said the sharp increases were due largely to students’ growing confidence in the reporting system and expanded awareness programs, but the announcement raised nagging questions about whether sexual misconduct is rising at the schools.
“I think it’s appropriate for people to feel frustrated about hearing this in the news. Bottom line is that if this were an easy problem, we would have solved it years ago,” said Nate Galbreath, the senior executive adviser for the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention Office. “Unfortunately, this is a very hard problem to solve.”
The Army, Navy and Air Force academies received a total of 91 sexual assault reports in 2014-15, up from 59 in the previous school year, an increase of 54 percent.
The Air Force Academy accounted for 49 of the sexual assault reports, compared with 25 the previous year. Officials at the school outside Colorado Springs, Colorado, declined to be interviewed but issued a written statement saying the 25 reported in the 2013-14 school year was unusually low compared with previous years. The school had 51 reports in 2011-12 and 44 in 2012-13.
The Air Force Academy statement said victims are the school’s main concern.