Academy sees improved outlook

Survey finds female Mids suspect less resentment over sex claims

March 24, 2006|By BRADLEY OLSON | BRADLEY OLSON,SUN REPORTER

A growing number of female midshipmen at the Naval Academy believe students won't be resented if they report sexual misconduct, according to survey data released by the military college yesterday.

The survey revealed that 5 percent of female Mids who responded last fall said they believe those who report sexual harassment will be resented, a sharp decline from 66 percent in 2003.

Academy officials said the data reflect a significant improvement in the climate of the academy about the reporting of sexual harassment and assault, a priority of Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the superintendent.

"One incident of sexual harassment, misconduct or assault is too many," Rempt said in a written statement.

But the data also show continuing cultural challenges.

Less than half of the female midshipmen at the academy - 44 percent - believe that the school provides a positive environment for women, the survey found. However, that is up from 24 percent in 2003.

The data released yesterday were based on the academy's annual "values survey" of sophomores, juniors and seniors, conducted in October.

Release of the figures comes several weeks after the academy charged senior Lamar S. Owens, the former Navy quarterback, with raping a junior midshipman in her dorm room on Jan. 29. He has denied the charges.

In court testimony, a friend of the alleged victim painted a different picture of the culture at the military college, saying that women who report sexual assaults are "crucified" on the campus, mostly by peers.

In August, a Department of Defense task force faulted the academy for failing to improve a culture deemed hostile to women.

Senior academy officials said they are encouraged by some of the numbers in the survey, noting that 98 percent of midshipmen said they have not experienced sexual assault of any kind; 97 percent of female Mids said they feel safe sleeping in Bancroft Hall, the academy's dormitory; and 95 percent of women said they would recommend the academy to a friend.

The academy also released statistics yesterday showing that of 56 accusations of sexual assault since 2001, two resulted in convictions, and both of those convicted were sentenced to one year in prison.

Officials acknowledged that adjudicating rape cases is often a challenge at the school because many allegations lack sufficient evidence, because of "he said, she said" scenarios, the use of alcohol or past relationships between the accuser and the accused.

In 17 of the 56 allegations, midshipmen were reported to be victims of an assault perpetrated by a nonmidshipman. The other 39 involved midshipmen accused of sexual assault, and 10 of those cases were not investigated because the victim declined to participate.

Of the remaining 29 cases, four are still under investigation; 13 yielded evidence of other misconduct and were processed in the academy's conduct system; and in eight cases "the evidence supported the sexual assault allegations."

Six of the accused midshipmen in those eight cases were referred to court-martial or civilian trial, and the remaining two were disciplined in the academy's conduct system. Seven of the eight midshipmen were eventually expelled.

bradley.olson@baltsun.com

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