West Point assault reports double

WASHINGTON — The number of sexual assaults reported at the U.S. Military Academy roughly doubled during the last school year, according to data reviewed by The Associated Press, in the latest example of the armed forces’ persistent struggle to root out such misbehavior.

Defense Department and West Point officials said the big jump at the Military Academy resulted from a concerted effort to encourage victims to come forward. But the dramatic and consistent increases may suggest more assaults are happening.

The annual report on sexual assaults at the three military academies is due out this month. The Naval Academy’s reports increased to 29 last year from 28. The Air Force Academy’s edged up by one, to 33.

About 12,000 students are enrolled across all three institutions. The AP reviewed the data ahead of its public release.

The report highlights persistent problems within the Air Force Academy’s sexual assault prevention office that emerged late last year. Staffing and management issues led to sweeping disciplinary actions, the resignation of the director and an office restructuring.

Those problems could cast doubt on a sharp decline in reported sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy for the 2015-16 school year, considering a widespread loss of confidence in the office. Students may have been reluctant to file reports.

There have been worrying trends.

An anonymous survey released last year suggested there were more sexual assaults, unwanted sexual contact and other bad behavior at all three academies. It found 12 percent of women and nearly 2 percent of men said they experienced unwanted sexual contact. The largest increases were at the Army and Navy academies.

Military leaders have said that an increase in sexual assault reports is good because it shows that students are aware of treatment programs and showing confidence in the system.

The overall goal, however, is more prevention, fewer assaults and effective help for victims.