Reports of Sexual Assault Increase at Coast Guard Academy

USCGA (file image)

By The Maritime Executive 03-04-2019 06:42:30

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy's annual gender relations survey recorded a spike in reports of  unwanted sexual contact and sexual harassment this year, up by four percentage points and nine respectively. The numbers were enough to prompt a warning from administrators. 

“The results are alarming as this increased trend in unwanted sexual conduct, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination further jeopardizes the safety, well-being, and success of cadets,” said assistant commandant of cadets Cmdr. Edward Hernaez, in a message to students. 

The survey and the memo, first reported by the Connecticut Mirror, coincide with higher numbers of reports of sexual assault and harassment at the three DoD-administered military service academies (not including Kings Point, which falls under DOT, or the Coast Guard Academy, which falls under DHS). In 2017-18, the DoD academies estimated a total of about 750 instances of sexual assault, for a prevalence rate of about 16 percent among female cadets - twice the rate recorded in 2013-14. 

Growing social acceptance of reporting sexual assault and sexual harassment may be a factor in the increased counts, but Cmdr. Hernaez suggested that this was no excuse for the underlying problem.

“Yes, the increase in these percentages may be due to the fact that more people feel comfortable with reporting these sorts of offenses now than back in 2016, but I know for certain that unwanted sexual contact,  harassment, and gender discrimination are still a problem here at the Coast Guard Academy and throughout the Coast Guard,” he wrote. 

In addition, the Coast Guard Academy is still working through prior allegations of racial bias. Last year, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security opened an investigation into alleged patterns of racial discrimination and the academy's methods of handling racially-motivated harassment on campus. 

"We take all reports of discrimination seriously and are reaching out to the local chapter of the NAACP to confirm that incidents reported to them mirror those reported to the academy in accordance with Coast Guard policy," said then-administrator Adm. James Rendon, addressing the bias allegations in an op-ed last year. "We have a duty to our people and we take this duty, this responsibility, very seriously."