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Pentagon leaders working with Naval Academy to address "issues" raised in sex assault reports

ANNAPOLIS. Md. — Navy officials say leaders at the Pentagon are working closely with the Naval Academy to address "issues" raised in reports expected to be released Friday on sexual assault at service academies

A Pentagon report indicates that while sexual assaults spiked by 23 percent in 2012 at the nation's three service academies, reported assaults declined at the Naval Academy. However, a biannual anonymous survey also expected to be released Friday shows victims are reluctant to report the problem.

CNN reports the survey it obtained early found 225 midshipmen, mainly females, reported they were the victims of unwanted sexual contact in the most recent academic year. That contact includes everything from touching to rape. But only 12 filed formal reports, down nearly 50 percent from last year.

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Navy officials said Thursday that senior leaders were "upset by the findings" and expected new initiatives at the Naval Academy to be rolled out on "fleet lessons learned" as soon as the end of this week. The Naval Academy declined to comment on the reports until more information was available Friday.

The Capital reported earlier this year on what female midshipmen described as a culture at the Naval Academy in which young men regularly harass women, make comments about their inferiority -- and, in a small number of cases, sexually assault them.

In exit interviews obtained through a federal Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Capital, the vast majority of female mids leaving the academy before graduation said they didn't have a problem with the culture faced by women there. Most said they'd recommend that other women attend the academy, if they "understood what they were in for."

But others had different opinions.

A lawsuit filed against Defense Department officials by a former midshipman and a former West Point Cadet claims they received little support at the military academies after reporting sexual assaults. The institutions "have a high tolerance for sexual predators in their ranks and 'zero tolerance' for those who report rape, sexual assault and harassment," according to the complaint.

The reports, due out Friday, say the number of reported sexual assaults rose from 65 in 2011 to 80 in 2012, according to Associated Press reports. However, half the assaults involved victims who sought confidential medical or other care and did not trigger an investigation. There were 41 assaults reported in 2010.

Twelve percent of the women anonymously surveyed at the three academies said they experienced "unwanted sexual contact" and 51 percent said they were sexually harassed. Of the men surveyed, the Associated Press reports 2 percent experienced unwanted contact and 10 percent said they were sexually harassed.

The report divides the assaults into two categories, restricted and unrestricted. Unrestricted reports rose slightly from 38 last year to 42 this year, and those are provided to either law enforcement or military commanders for an investigation. Restricted reports jumped from 27 last year to 38 this year, and in those cases victims sought medical care and advocacy services but did not seek an official investigation.
 

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