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Military discusses academy assaults

Number of cases called no surprise

WASHINGTON -- Women at US military academies say they have faced 302 incidents of sexual assault since they enrolled, a figure the military says is comparable to civilian schools.

''We are about where college campuses are, tragically. That's not, frankly, terribly surprising," said David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. ''These young men and women come from civil society."

Yesterday, he announced the results of the Pentagon's first comprehensive study of assaults at the academies with a new militarywide policy aimed at protecting the confidentiality of people who report being sexually assaulted.

Of the incidents, about a third, or 96, were reported to authorities.

Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz surveyed cadets and midshipmen at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., the US Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., last spring on an anonymous basis to gauge the scope and reporting of sexual assaults.

About 97 percent of women at the academies, 1,906, responded to the survey. Because of the large number of men at the academies, surveyors used a random statistical sample of 30 percent of the men, or 3,107, evenly distributed and represented across the academies.

More than 50 percent of female respondents and 11 percent of male respondents indicated experiencing some type of sexual harassment since entering the schools, a report summary said.

Both the survey and the policy are in response to sexual-assault issues in the armed forces and a scandal at the Air Force Academy that surfaced in January 2003. It led to reviews of the military's sexual-assault policies and the departures of the academy's leadership.

Last year, nearly 150 women reported accusations that they had been sexually assaulted by fellow cadets between 1993 and 2003. Many alleged they were punished, ignored, or ostracized by commanders for speaking out.

Schmitz's survey found that the women said that since they became cadets and midshipmen there were 64 incidents in which an offender had intercourse with them against their will or without consent, and 30 incidents of anal and oral sex against their will or without consent.

The services have until mid-June to institute the policy. Chu said he expected the number of reported incidents to rise after that.

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