WASHINGTON ― A culture of bad behavior and disrespect among athletes at U.S. military academies is one part of the continuing problem of sexual assaults at the schools, according to a new Defense Department report that comes in the wake of scandals that rocked teams at all three academies last year.
Defense officials say the culture permeates the academies beyond just the locker room, saying that students often feel they need to put up with sexist and offensive behavior as part of their school life, according to the report obtained by The Associated Press.
The annual report on sexual assaults at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co., identifies sports and club teams as an area where they need to expand sexual assault prevention training for coaches and faculty. The report is expected to be made public today.
Overall, reported sexual assaults at the academies went down, from 80 to 70, during the school year that ended last May. Of those, almost two-thirds were at the Air Force Academy.
It also notes that alcohol is often a factor in sexual assaults, and it urges military leaders to do more to restrict and monitor drinking and liquor sales.
Athletes and sports teams are coming under increased scrutiny in light of separate harassment and assault incidents at all three schools.
At the Naval Academy, three members of the football team faced accusations in a complicated sexual assault case involving a female student at an off-campus party. Charges were dropped against one team member and may be dropped against another. The third is still scheduled for trial.
At West Point, the men’s rugby team was temporarily disbanded, and more than a dozen seniors were demoted and faced other punishment and restrictions, after emails that were derogatory to women came to light. And there was a similar problem with offensive emails among team members at the Air Force Academy.
Defense officials said Thursday that students view crude behavior and harassment as an almost accepted experience at the academies and that victims feel peer pressure not to report incidents. So the schools are being encouraged to beef up training, particularly among student leaders, to recognize and feel empowered to report or step in when they see unacceptable behavior.
In 41 of the 70 cases during the last school year, victims filed restricted reports, meaning there was only very limited information provided and no formal complaint against another person was filed.
Of the remaining 29 reports, eight involved rapes, seven were sexual assaults, 12 were abusive or wrongful sexual contact, one was sodomy and one was an attempted assault.