Last month the Department of Defense announced a spike in the number of reported assaults at the Air Force Academy. Then days later an announcement was made that detailed how the Air Force filed sex-crime charges against three cadets, leading to grave concerns of an unexplained epidemic.
Officials can't point out exactly why or how these assaults are happening. One positive spin is that it could be reflecting the academy's efforts to encourage cadets to report any kind of unwanted sexual contact, writes the Associated Press.
Lory Manning, director of the Women in the Military Project, said:
"I don't think anybody knows how to read that data."
The number of assaults reported has been comprehensively recorded since the 2005-06 school year. 10 cases were recorded in the first year, 24 two years later, 8 in 2008-09, then rising to 20 in 2009-10 and 33 last year. Nearly 80 percent of the academy's approximately 4,600 cadets are male.
Nearly 3,200 sexual assaults were reported across the military last year, said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. But the real number, he believes, is probably closer to 19,000 because so few victims report the crime.
New initiatives – being prepared at the Pentagon – are to be implemented as a way to reduce the number of assaults, said Panetta.
Col. Reni Renner, vice commandant of cadets for climate and culture, said:
"The number of reports have gone up.
"But it's hard to draw a correlation between the number of incidents and the number of reports."
Renner believes the school is making headway, pointing to a growing number of cadets coming forward. Further analysis of the data also shows that 5 of the 33 incidents reported in the 2010-11 school year occurred before the victim entered the military, indicating that these cadets sought help after they enrolled.
"My sense â¦ is that we really are seeing an increase in trust in our system," Renner said.
Hearings are expected to begin next week for the three male cadets charged with sex crimes. They are charged with events taking place from between February 2010 and May 2011. Officials explained that, despite all being unrelated, the three cases were announced together because the investigations happened to end at about the same time.
Academy spokesman Meade Warthen, said that Air Force attorneys haven't yet calculated sentencing ranges for any convictions.