On Friday, January 27, 2017, MARAD delivered to Congress the preliminary 2015-16 SA/SH annual report for USMMA and the final 2014-15 SA/SH annual report for USMMA. (These annual reports are different than the reports of the biennial sexual assault and gender relations surveys.)
A few quick observations:
- The surveys upon which these reports are based continue to use the same flawed methodology that we have reported upon in the past that make them inappropriate for use in comparing rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment at USMMA and the other federal academies.
- The data continues to be reported in ways that can be misperceived. For example, the preliminary report for 2015-2016 states, “Of those Midshipmen who experienced unwanted sexual contact, 18 percent indicated that the event occurred during maritime duty.” That sounds pretty bad — until you realize that only 4% of the 647 midshipmen who responded reported that they experienced unwanted sexual contact at any time, any where, during the survey period. So fewer than 26 students reported unwanted sexual contact any time, any where and of those 26, fewer than 5 students indicated that the event occurred during maritime duty. Yes, even one sexual assault is one too many; but, the Academy needs to learn to use the data to focus on where the problem lies. An assault was 5 times as likely to be committed away from maritime duty rather than during maritime duty yet the administration launched a war on sea year.
- Alcohol continues to play a major role in sexual assaults. This is not a surprise, as the same is true on campuses across the country. And it makes sense. A midshipman can have all the SA/SH training in the world yet once alcohol loosens the inhibitions, that training goes out the windows. Maybe it is time for the Academy to shift its focus from SA/SH “culture” to guiding midshipmen on responsible alcohol consumption in the formative years when many will first be exposed to major opportunities to experiment with alcohol. Reduce problem drinking and the Academy can substantially solve two problems — alcohol abuse and sexual assault.