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Sexist culture permeates life at military academies, Defense report finds

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 8:30 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A culture of bad behavior and disrespect among athletes at military academies is one part of the continuing problem of sexual assaults in the schools, according to a Defense Department report released as a result of scandals that rocked teams at all three academies last year.

Defense officials say the culture permeates the academies beyond the locker room, saying that students often believe they need to put up with sexist and offensive behavior as part of their school life, according to the report obtained by The Associated Press.

The annual report on sexual assaults in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., identifies sports and club teams as an area where they need to expand sexual assault prevention training for coaches and faculty. The report is expected to be made public on Friday.

Overall, reported sexual assaults at the academies went down, from 80 to 70, during the school year that ended in May. Of those, almost two-thirds were in the Air Force Academy.

The report notes that alcohol is often a factor in sexual assaults, and it urges military leaders to do more to restrict and monitor drinking and liquor sales.

Athletes and sports teams are being increasingly scrutinized in light of harassment and assault incidents inall three schools.

At the Naval Academy, three members of the football team were accused in a complicated sexual assault case involving a female student during an off-campus party. Charges were dropped against one team member and may be dropped against another. The third is scheduled for trial.

At West Point, the men's rugby team was temporarily disbanded, and more than a dozen seniors were demoted and faced other punishment and restrictions in connection with emails derogatory to women that came to light. There was a similar problem with sports team members in the Air Force Academy circulating a document that disparaged women.

Defense officials said on Thursday that students view crude behavior and harassment as an almost accepted experience at the academies and that victims feel peer pressure not to report incidents. So the schools are being encouraged to beef up training, particularly among student leaders, to recognize and feel empowered to report or step in when they see unacceptable behavior.

Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., the superintendent at West Point, said that the rugby scandal revealed a bad subculture that had existed for years.

“There were people within the organization that became desensitized to the degradation of respect,” Caslen said.

“But there were also people in the organization that recognized it as being wrong and elected not to do anything.”

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