December 19th, 2012
08:46 PM ET

Sex assault at military academies underreported, survey finds

By Larry Shaughnessy and Barbara Starr

The risk of sexual assault is growing at the elite military service academies, but victims are reluctant to report the problem, according to a Pentagon report obtained by CNN.

The survey of three military academies was ordered by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and will be released Thursday. CNN obtained advance details of the survey, which shows that the problem is getting worse with a rise in reported assaults and evidence that many more are never discussed.

Some of the most disturbing new information comes from the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland. The survey found that 225 midshipmen, mainly females, reported that they were the victims of unwanted sexual contact in the most recent academic year. That contact includes everything from touching to rape. But only 12 filed formal reports, down nearly 50 percent from last year. The belief is the women still are not confident that their reports will be taken seriously.

At the Army's U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and the Air Force Academy in Colorado, the number of sexual assault incidents reported rose as well. The survey also found that at these schools, women appear to be more comfortable about reporting harassment and assault, though there were many cases of unreported incidents at those academies as well.

"The problem, as I see it, is no heads have rolled, all the generals come before congress and (say) the same thing over again, there is zero tolerance, but nothing ever changes," said U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California who has worked hard for years to end this problem.

In April, Speier met with Panetta about the issue; he vowed then things would change.

"Sexual assault has no place in the military. It is a violation of everything that the U.S. military stands for," Panetta said.

"The chain of command is part of the problem," Speier said in an interview with CNN. "You are required to report the incident to your chain of command; oftentimes the assailant is you commander."

Speier said the fact that the assailants in these cases are students is particularly disturbing.

"These are the cream of the crop; these are young people with great SAT scores and great GPAs that are supposed to the next generation of leadership for this country, so we should expect more, not less."

Speier has a theory about why there has been no change: "I think that Secretary Panetta has wanted to do the right thing, I think that the bureaucracy and the military superstructure is going to withstand his scrutiny and review because they saw him as a short-termer."

soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. JohnParryJones

    A touch on the shoulder. A girl who drinks too much then has misgivings. Grow up. Move on.

    December 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  2. George Patton

    This shouldn't be too surprising given all the right-wing mumbo-jumbo being drummed into the heads of our young people today by both the right-wing politicians and the right-wing news media. With all this right-wing bla-bla-bla on their minds, such as the "glory" of killing, the hatred, and the glorification of these foreign wars, morality is bound to decline!!!

    December 20, 2012 at 11:54 am | Reply
    • Kate

      you nailed it xo

      December 20, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Reply
  3. rick1948

    Amazing how whenever something starts hitting the news, people start "remembering" things that they claim happened to them so far in the past that their claims cannot be disproved.

    December 20, 2012 at 8:03 am | Reply
    • Kate

      or proved. Women do not report because of people like your self, immediate disbelief. It took me 36 years to even talk about it, I could have never reported back then. Women are treated like garbage by investigators, DA's and judges, why would any woman report? Now that I am older and not in fear any more I wish I had reported, but this was the 70's and I would not have been taken seriously, no rapes were taken seriously.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Reply
  4. Incredulous45

    The trogs are out again.

    A serious problem, maybe something will be accomplished this time.

    December 20, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
  5. luvlar

    I spent 21 years in the Navy as a JAG officer (lawyer). In that role I've investigated many of these. The bottom line is this; well over 50% recant their stories within a few days. Of the remaining 50% at least half say they'd been drinking with their so called assailant and felt they'd been taken advantage of even though they admitted it was consensual. Of what's left there has to be a few that are outright lying just by the laws of probability. One assault is too many but the numbers being reported are way off the truth.

    December 20, 2012 at 7:50 am | Reply
    • LeeCMH

      So we ignore real victims of assault because some people lie?

      December 20, 2012 at 8:03 am | Reply
      • luvlar

        I'm talking about the numbers being reported are not accurate for various reasons. At what point in my post did you decide I was saying we should ignore victims of assault?

        December 20, 2012 at 8:07 am |
      • LeeCMH

        I have heard so many times through-out people complain about women who lie about being assaulted and they conclude that assaults are accusations women use to manipulate or "get back at" men.

        This results in law enforcement and other authorities discounting real assaults.

        Much of the time guys use similar statements you use as coded speech to convey that they think the vast majority of assaults are false and too much time is being spent on defending possible victims of assault.

        December 20, 2012 at 8:28 am |
      • LeeCMH

        Also, JAG is the same as HR in the civilian world. Luckily civilians can use council outside the "company" for defense.

        December 20, 2012 at 9:29 am |
      • Kate

        yes, jags response told us all what the problems are, and it is not the victims

        December 20, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Kate

      and you are part of the problem, blaming the victim before they have a complaint.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  6. job

    wonder if the dongfus who are complaining about women in the military had there daughters tell them that they were raped if they would still have that cave boy mentality...think not.

    December 20, 2012 at 7:07 am | Reply
    • Josh

      If it was only rape, I would agree.

      However, any kind of physical contact is also included. Such casual, friendly, contact happens even between males under these kinds of "close knit" situations. The Army wants such, so that you are more included to protect each other in combat.

      December 20, 2012 at 7:43 am | Reply
      • Portland tony

        Jeez...Friendly contact my bird! Anyone grabs my privates uninvited...that's battery! Besides officers don't usually go into combat back to back!

        December 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  7. LTC

    "Oftentimes, the assailant is your commander.". Please provide specifics Jackie, otherwise that comment shows your complete ignorance.

    December 20, 2012 at 7:04 am | Reply
  8. lowell

    Anytime that men and women are togeather there is cross action.the English understood this take a look at early Austrailian history. can this action be limited YES ,it takes great diligence and lots of time. take a look at Israel. as long as there are men and women there will be some cross action . even if death for both parties is the penality.

    December 20, 2012 at 6:58 am | Reply
  9. lubby

    No kidding? There were only 80 incidents? We need to step down on the military aggression stuff. Nothing is going to change. There will be many who will perish, but all will perish to heaven, at least those most recently living. Hard to say about those 100 years ago. Nothing wrong with tanks, airplanes, and stuff, though. Just do not kill anyone.

    December 20, 2012 at 6:56 am | Reply
  10. fiftyfive55

    young men in their top physical condition of their lives and people are surprised that these guys are coming on to the girls,gimme a break and crawl back into your P.C.Cave.

    December 20, 2012 at 6:33 am | Reply
    • Kate

      you silly old man, men coming on to women is called flirting, there is a difference between RAPE and dating or flirting, you must be a repug with your head firmly stuck in your rectal area.

      December 20, 2012 at 7:17 am | Reply
      • Josh

        Silly woman. They can't seem to read very well.

        Its is not just rape. It is any kind of touching; even the friendly pat of congratulations or of approval.

        December 20, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  11. wayne1

    If these ladies stayed home in the kitchen and baked cakes for their men, none of this would ever happen!

    December 20, 2012 at 6:26 am | Reply
    • bellenoitr

      I see you're from the keep them barefoot and pregnant generation. Crawl back into your hole.

      December 20, 2012 at 7:36 am | Reply
  12. Whome

    My guess would be before women were allowed to attend the academies it was zero.

    December 20, 2012 at 6:10 am | Reply
    • Alyssa

      So it's the women who should bow out of military service instead of men learning not to rape? Is that really the correct answer?

      December 20, 2012 at 7:05 am | Reply
    • Kate

      So you have come over from faux since they do not allow comments any more due to people like you, that are blaming rape on the existence of females. I bet you have never NOT had to pay for it, or you just go ahead and rape someone, neat guy.....NOT

      December 20, 2012 at 7:20 am | Reply
  13. DRL

    Simple solution: Get women out of the military. They don't belong there anyway!

    December 20, 2012 at 5:31 am | Reply
    • kk

      Simple solution: men need to learn to stop raping women.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:39 am | Reply
    • Mamaboats

      Having served 21 years as a female and a Chief, you little worm, women not only have a place in the military, they do a good job. We are all supposed to be part of a team but the problem a female you definitely feel that if you report harassment or rape, you are not part of the team and you will be shunned and that is your career. I have seen women transferred who did report harassment. Yes, women can stand up but they have to know that the military is behind them. The problem starts with the chain of command, the good ole boys...and ends with little worms like DRL

      December 20, 2012 at 5:48 am | Reply
    • Kim

      They have a thought process similar to that in Islam...keep the women covered and hidden because the men can't control themselves. I like to think the US is better than to shackle women because of the men who can't behave any better than animals.

      December 20, 2012 at 5:55 am | Reply
    • NickD

      I take it that you have never served a day in your life DRL. If you have I feel sorry for you and the service for having to put up with your warped way of thinking. I would give all that I am and more for my fellow brothers and sisters of arms, to ensure their safety and well being! But since you are probably a masochist who gets off at others negative comments towards your statements I'll leave it at that. HOOAH!!!

      December 20, 2012 at 6:01 am | Reply
    • Kate

      A bit of an eegit are we?

      December 20, 2012 at 7:14 am | Reply
    • Kate

      I think it would be best if MEN just stopped raping other people, it really is disgusting like you.

      December 20, 2012 at 7:22 am | Reply
    • UncleBenny

      Isn't it interesting that in another CNN article about the high incidence of gang rape in India, some commenters declared that the West is so superior because women are treated equally, yet on this topic the troglodytes are basically telling women to shut up and get out of the military.

      December 20, 2012 at 8:08 am | Reply
  14. Aaron

    THe reason they go unreported is the same reason that more people dont complain about b/c forced or pressured into religious practises..... they fear retaliation in one form or another and/or the believe nothing will really be done to fix the issue

    December 20, 2012 at 5:10 am | Reply
  15. massoud

    Obamas drone strikes have killed many young innocent children in Pakistan or are they just collateral damage?

    December 19, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Reply
    • cheeseroll

      Oh wow, a talking camel!

      December 20, 2012 at 5:19 am | Reply
      • Old Sailor

        What do you have against camels?
        More like what the camel leaves behind when it walks away.

        December 20, 2012 at 6:23 am |
    • Kate

      Unfortunately, yes, Pakistan is a strong hold for terrorists and terrorism, and that is because of Islam

      December 20, 2012 at 7:10 am | Reply
      • bellenoitr

        That is because of Islamist EXTREMISTS. You really should make this clear as most of the Islamist population is peaceful.

        December 20, 2012 at 7:39 am |
      • Kate

        I am sorry but I disagree, Islam is a danger to all women period.

        December 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      And the connection between this article and drone strikes in Pakistan is what exactly?

      December 20, 2012 at 8:09 am | Reply

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