August 25, 2005

Pentagon criticizes sexual harassment at academies

By Charles Aldinger

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Harassment of women students at the
Army and Navy military academies has created an environment in
which sexual assaults are likely to occur, the Pentagon told
Congress on Thursday.

The new study, ordered by lawmakers in the wake of a
sex-abuse scandal at the Air Force Academy, stressed that
officials at the other two service schools were also making
progress in addressing the issue, but that major problems

At both the Army's U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New
York, and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland,
records from the past 10 years show alleged sexual offenders
"were not consistently or effectively held accountable through
the criminal justice system," the report said.

"Some in the academy communities do not value women as
highly as men," investigators said, in part because women are
in a minority in the armed forces and are held to different
physical fitness standards.

The 12-member Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment and
Violence at the Military Service Academies on Thursday made a
number of recommendations to Congress. They include increasing
the number of female students and officers in positions of
authority at the Army and Navy schools, which produce future
leaders for their services.


Congress ordered the study to check the treatment of women
at the Army and Navy schools in the wake of a major abuse
scandal at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado,
in which leadership by top Air Force officials was blamed for a
decade of assaults against female cadets.

"Historically, sexual harassment and sexual assault have
been inadequately addressed at both (Army and Navy) academies,"
the new report concluded.

"Harassment is the more prevalent and corrosive problem,
creating an environment in which sexual assault is likely to
occur," it added.

"Although progress has been made, hostile attitudes and
inappropriate actions toward women, and the toleration of these
by some cadets and midshipmen, continue to hinder the
establishment of a safe and professional environment in which
to prepare future military officers."

The task force did not provide figures on the number of
cases or alleged assaults against female cadets at the Army and
Navy schools, nor did it compare the problems there to that at
the Air Force Academy.

But it stressed that students must take a big role in
solving the problem.

"Midshipmen and cadets must assume more responsibility for
holding others accountable by intervening, confronting and
correcting each other for failure to live up to the required
standards," it said.

The task force was made up of military and civilian members
and co-chaired by Navy Vice Adm. Gerald Hoewing, chief of naval
personnel, and Deliah Rumburg of the Pennsylvania Coalition
Against Rape.