WASHINGTON – A culture of bad behavior and disrespect among athletes at U.S. military academies is one part of the continuing problem of sexual assaults at the schools, according to a new Defense Department report that comes in the wake of scandals that rocked teams at all three academies last year.
Defense officials say the culture permeates the academies beyond just the locker room, saying that students often feel they need to put up with sexist and offensive behavior as part of their school life, according to the report obtained by The Associated Press.
The annual report on sexual assaults at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., identifies sports and club teams as a field in which they need to expand sexual assault prevention training for coaches and faculty. The report is expected to be made public today.
Overall, reported sexual assaults at the academies went down, from 80 to 70, during the school year that ended last May. Of those, almost two-thirds were at the Air Force Academy.
It also notes that alcohol is often a factor in sexual assaults, and it urges military leaders to do more to restrict and monitor drinking and liquor sales.
Athletes and sports teams are coming under increased scrutiny in light of separate harassment and assault cases at all three schools.
Defense officials said Thursday that students view crude behavior and harassment as an almost accepted experience at the academies and that victims feel peer pressure not to report incidents.
So the schools are being encouraged to beef up training, particularly among student leaders, to recognize and feel empowered to report or step in when they see unacceptable behavior.
Both the Army and Navy targeted sports team captains and are using field trips to Gettysburg to talk to them about leadership and the need to combat sexual harassment and assault within their ranks.