On the day the Pentagon released a comprehensive report about sexual assault in American military academies, the Navy dropped charges against a second Naval Academy football player who was accused of sexually assaulting a female student at an off-campus party in 2012. The female midshipmen accused three Navy football players of sexually assaulting her at the event. She also reported that the midshipmen bragged about the assault on social media. Charges against one of the midshipmen have already been dropped. The court martial for the third starts in February.
The Department of Defense realizes that the academies, like the military itself, have a sexual assault and harassment problem. In a report released early Friday, officials note that reported cases of sexual assault are down, but "locker room talk" and a culture of disrespect is still present at West Point, Navy and the Air Force Academy. Sports teams in particular, officials noted, need more training and education on sexual assault issues.
The numbers: There were 70 reports of sexual assault at the academies during the 2012-2013 school year, down from 80 reports the previous year. But this isn't necessarily a good thing — it could just mean less crimes are getting reported. In a separate, biennial study, the DoD estimated that 525 sexual assaults happened at the academies during 2012. Only 71 were reported.
And, as this Navy football case suggests, the military may not be handling the cases in a fair way. The female midshipman filed another suit in 2013 alleging that the superintendent of the Naval Academy, Vice Admiral Michael Miller, "personally intervened in the case out of concern over his own self-interest."
In addition to the ongoing Navy football case, West Point and the Air Force Academy have had trouble with sports team members writing and circulating derogatory things about women. West Point disbanded its rugby team as a result.
Of course, this kind of behavior isn't limited to sports teams at military academies. As Tim Murphy at Mother Jones noted last month, college football teams in particular have had a sexual assault problem for at least the last 40 years. The DoD report also cited alcohol as a contributing factor in sexual assault cases.
It's important to consider, however, that the academies' young people will be funneled into the military, where the sexual assault problem is far from fixed. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand attempted to pass an amendment last year that would take sexual assault cases outside the military chain of command. The measure didn't get a vote in Congress. When a female midshipman alleges that her superintendent unfairly intervened in her sexual assault case, it seems like Gillibrand's amendment should get a second look in 2014.