Unwanted sexual contact reports are way up at the Air Force Academy, according to the latest report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies for the 2021-22 academic year, released today, March 10, by the Department of Defense.
This report, titled the Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies, was instigated by the sexual assault scandal that erupted at the Air Force Academy (USAFA) in 2003 when several victims went public with complaints that the Academy didn’t prosecute cases of sexual assault or take action against the accused rapists.
The survey found that:
• 22.3 percent of USAFA women indicated experiencing USC (unwanted sexual contact) in the past year, a statistically significant increase from 15.4 percent in 2018.
• USAFA women experienced a statistically significant increase in rates of unwanted touching as well as attempted and completed penetration in 2022. For USAFA women, 6.4 percent indicated experiencing unwanted touching; 8.7 percent attempted penetration; and 7.2 percent indicated experiencing completed penetration (compared to 4.8 percent, 5.5 percent, and 5.0 percent in 2018).
• Moreover, there was a statistically significant increase in rates of unwanted sexual contact experienced by female fourth-year cadets (12.8 percent, up from 8.8 percent in 2018), female third-year cadets (30 percent, up from 18.5 percent in 2018), and female first-year cadets (20.5 percent, up from 13.6 in 2018) compared to 2018. Also, 6.6 percent of female fourth-year cadets indicated experiencing attempted penetration, a statistically significant increase from 2.8 percent in 2018. Similarly, female third-year cadets also indicated experiencing statistically higher rates of unwanted touching (7.1 percent) and attempted penetration (12.9 percent) in 2022 compared to 2018 (3.4 percent versus 7.7 percent).
• Lastly, female first-year female cadets indicated experiencing statistically higher rates of unwanted touching (8.6 percent) and completed penetration (6.5 percent) compared to 2018 (4.9 percent versus 2.5 percent).
The survey also found that 4.3 percent of USAFA men indicated experiencing unwanted sexual contact in the past year, a statistically significant increase from 1.8 percent in 2018. USAFA men also indicated experiencing statistically higher rates of unwanted touching in 2022 as compared to 2018 (2.1 percent versus 0.8 percent) and completed penetration in 2022 compared to 2018 (1 percent versus 0.3 percent).
Those results led USAFA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark to issue a release saying, “Today’s report identifies an unacceptable increase in unwanted sexual contact of our cadets. There is nothing that erodes trust and tears down teams faster than sexual harassment and violence. As Warfighters this impacts the mission and our readiness. We need a culture reset. Those found to have perpetrated sexual harassment and violence under my command will be held accountable. Every single complaint is taken seriously and will be handled in line with local laws and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“Last fall, I directed a holistic Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Redesign. We brought together cadets, alumni, permanent party, our Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team and national subject matter experts as the culmination of our redesign efforts,” said Clark. “Our goal was to identify what works and what doesn’t in our training and our culture. I asked for bold thinking to find solutions that create an environment where everyone is safe from physical and emotional harm.”
Clark also noted he’s ordered a “holistic” Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Redesign. “Our goal was to identify what works and what doesn’t in our training and our culture,” the release quoted him saying.
He said the officer school has implemented a “comprehensive and integrated prevention approach, research and testing new programs.” It’s also adopted sexual assault reporting training that spans all four years.
“Throughout the year, we will continuously evaluate and adjust to find solutions that work,” Clark said.
More broadly, the survey found an estimated 21.4 percent of academy women and an estimated 4.4 percent of academy men indicated experiencing unwanted sexual contact in the year prior to being surveyed (i.e., since June 2021). This is an increase compared to the 2018 rate. Rates of sexual harassment also increased.
The Academies received a total of 206 reports of sexual assault, which is an increase of 45 reports over the 161 received in Academic Program Year 2020- 2021.
Of the 206 reports, 170 were from actively enrolled cadets and midshipmen who made an Unrestricted or Restricted Report of sexual assault. Unrestricted is when a report is made that’s not protected as confidential. A restricted report means the reporting party wanted their identity protected.
Survey and reporting data indicate that about 14 percent of cadets and midshipmen who indicated experiencing unwanted sexual contact reported their incident to a Department of Defense authority.