WASHINGTON (AP) — Reports of sexual assaults at the three military academies surged by more than 50 percent in the 2014-15 school year, and complaints of sexual harassment also spiked, according to Pentagon officials.
A senior defense official said that the sharp increases were due largely to students’ growing confidence in the reporting system and expanded awareness programs that over the past several years have included training, videos and information sessions for both students and leaders. The programs have been aimed at making victims more aware of the reporting process and more comfortable seeking help.
But the dramatic increases raise nagging questions about whether criminal assaults and harassment are on the rise or if the numbers actually reflect a growing willingness of victims to come forward.
“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.”