More sexual assault complaints were made at of the three principal U.S. service academies in 2021 than in any year since such statistics have been tracked, the Washington Post reports. Last year, students at the U.S. Naval, Military, and Air Force Academies reported 131 incidents of sexual assault during a period in which the Pentagon faced criticism in Congress of its handling of sexual assault and harassment. In 2021, an independent commission recommended that some decisions about charging cases should be removed from the chain of command. Congress agreed, passing legislation to amend some of the Uniform Code of Military Justice's procedures regarding sexual assault.
The service academies have engaged in several initiatives to address sexual assaults on their campuses. Historically, discrepancies between reports and internal surveying have suggested that only 12 percent of assaults at the academies are officially reported. The Pentagon says the news of more reports may be a good thing. However, data from 2013 to the most recent year, a period in which reports of assault generally rose, suggests that percentages of official reports as compared to the surveyed rates have generally held firm or fallen. This belies the notion that cadets and midshipmen are getting more comfortable making official reports. Pentagon officials said the problem could be caused by the fact that to make an official report, one must accuse another member of a relatively insular academic community. The service academies are reckoning with the realization that mitigation efforts they undertook a decade ago may not have been enough.