Pentagon: Sexual assaults increase at Naval Academy, West Point

West Point

(UPI) — The U.S. Department of Defense said sexual assaults increased at the Naval Academy and the Military Academy at West Point, while sexual misconduct increased in all academies including the Air Force Academy last year.

Overall, the U.S. military academies reported 86 sexual assaults in the 2015-16 academic program year — five fewer reports of sexual assault when compared to the 2014-15 report.

The Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office report was released on Wednesday — a day prior to West Point’s 215th anniversary.

In 2015-16, there were 26 sexual assaults reported in West Point, up from 17; 28 sexual assaults reported in the Navy Academy, up from 25; and 32 sexual assaults reported in the Air Force Academy, down from 49.

The Defense Department’s anonymous survey found that 48 percent of women and 12 percent of men in U.S. military academies experienced an incident of sexual harassment in the previous year.

“These experiences largely involved hostile work environment situations (pervasive and severe unwanted sexual attention, comments or jokes made at their expense),” the Pentagon wrote in a statement.

The Defense Department said rates of unwanted sexual contact, or sexual misconduct, also increased.

“Overall, about 12 percent of academy women and 2 percent of academy men indicated experiencing unwanted sexual contact in the year prior to being surveyed,” the Pentagon wrote in its report. “These rates are statistically higher than rates observed in 2014, and are statistically similar to unwanted sexual contact rates observed in 2010 and 2012.”

The report follows an investigation by the Defense Department into nude photos of women — including some Marines — being shared on the Internet.

“Cadets and midshipmen are our military’s future leaders,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement on Wednesday. “Our readiness in combat tomorrow will depend in large part on their experiences today. We must foster an environment that rejects sexual assault and sexual harassment, notably during these formative years at our service academies.”