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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Service academies’ honor dimmed by systematic hush

    If, like me, you enjoy fostering environments that are intolerant of sexual assault while also culturing climates that do not critically examine the behavior that enables these assaults — and getting free T-shirts — you’ve probably noticed the new It’s On Us campaign. Though aimed at converting passive bystanders to people who are part of the solution, it’s ironic that an initiative started by President Barack Obama and his administration is so willfully ignorant of or silent about a problem within its own federally-controlled entities: the five U.S. service academies.

    In accordance with the Clery Act of 1990, all colleges and universities that receive any federal funding or participate in any federal financial aid programs are required to keep an open, transparent log of alleged criminal incidents, as well as annual reporting of campus crimes, including sexual assaults, to the Department of Education.

    Failure to do so can result in large fines being levied against the institution as well as other administrative punishments. Strangely, even though they are obviously federally funded, the U.S. Military, Naval, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine and Air Force Academies are not required to comply to the Clery Act, nor are they held to Title IX, which prohibits gender-based discrimination including sexual assault.

    This is tremendously worrying because sexual assaults are the sort of crimes that, even in a forgiving and accepting climate that is willing to search out the perpetrator, are rarely reported because of the stigma surrounding them. We live in an era where people are more willing to forgive a criminal than to listen to a victim.

    But the military academies and the military in general are already not these types of environments. Over the last 25 years, more than 500,000 military members have been sexually assaulted while serving. Only 25 percent of women and 24 percent of men who were assaulted felt comfortable enough to report these crimes.

    Maybe that’s because 62 percent of those who did report experienced retaliation, and because the general attitude surrounding rape in the military conveyed to 20 percent of survivors is that it is “to be expected.”

    We’ve come a long way and the new It’s On Us campaign is certainly a step in the right direction. But the service academies should also benefit from the Clery Act, Title IX and from this new campaign in creating campus cultures that do not support victim blaming and other vitriolic facets of rape culture.

    Anyone can be assaulted, anywhere, at any time by anyone and that is a fact that we can either choose to live in fear of or can actively combat. The service academies need to actively combat that fear.

    Instead, they seem to be propagating it. Though the federal government hasn’t included any of the military academies on its list of schools to investigate for their handling of assault cases, numerous sexual scandals have been exposed at the service academies, especially at the U.S. Air Force Academy, which faced sexual assault investigations into mishandlings and coverups in 2003 and 2012. In 2004, a survey sent to all of the academies found that approximately 10 percent of all women attending them said they’d been assaulted.

    Frankly, it’s surprising and concerning with the advent of the Clery Act in 1990 and Title IX in the 1970s that the service academies did not lead the charge. They are representative of U.S. military prowess, educational and instructional capabilities and administrative ideals. For example, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point claims to exude tradition, class and service. Why does it also support a tradition of sexism and turning a blind eye towards sexual assaults and the protection of its students, faculty and staff?

    The administrations of the service academies need to take a pledge. They could definitely take the It’s On Us pledge, to support a community that wants to build a culture that enables victims of sexual assault to come forward, encourages positive support systems and disenfranchises those who wish to continue to victim blame and enable sexual assault to occur on the campuses of our nation’s service academies. They need to step into the light, embrace the newest presidential initiative and take action, beginning with adhering to federal protections for victims of sexual assault.

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    Nick Havey is a junior studying physiology and Spanish. Follow him on Twitter.

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