Sexual assault claims rose last year at US military service academies, Pentagon report says

Former U.S. Military Academy Cadet Stephanie Gross (R), a survivor of sexual assault, testifies before the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Military Personnel with Naval Academy Midshipman Second Class Shiela Craine (L) and Ariana Bullard in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill May 2, 2017 in Washington, DC.

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Sexual assault claims among cadets and midshipmen rose last year at U.S. military service academies, according to a new report on sexual harassment released Thursday.

In the 2018-19 school year, the academies received 149 reports of sexual assault, up from 117 the year before.

The Department of Defense, which released the report, says that the findings indicate more people are coming forward with claims of sexual assault.

“We are encouraged that more cadets and midshipmen made reports of sexual assault this year,” Nate Galbreath, acting director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, wrote in a statement on the heels of the report.

“Our program empowers those who experience sexual assault to connect with restorative care. Greater reporting by Service members has been a priority for the Department since the creation of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program in 2005,” he added.

The report asks cadets and midshipmen to answer questions related to sexual assault and sexual harassment anonymously.

A report of sexual assault at the academies in 2019 showed an increase of nearly 50% of unwanted sexual contact in the 2017-18 school year compared to the previous school year.

There were 747 instances of unwanted sexual contact between 2017-18, according to last year’s report, with 15% of women and 2.4% of men in the academies reporting.

“Our data last year, and the findings from this years’ report, reflect the progress we have made in some areas, and the significant work that remains,” Elizabeth Van Winkle, executive director of the Office of Force Resiliency, said in a statement.

CNBC’s Amanda Macias contributed to this report from Washington.

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