'Sexual assault crisis': Unwanted contact reports hit all-time high at Coast Guard Academy

Reports of unwanted sexual contact by cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy reached an all-time high in 2018, according to a survey released Wednesday by the academy.

The anonymous gender relations survey showed 12.4 percent of female cadets at the New London, Conn. school reported unwanted sexual contact -- including sexual assault, attempted sexual assault and unwanted sexual touching -- while 3.6 percent of male cadets reported the same. By comparison, 8 percent of female cadets and 1 percent of male cadets reported unwanted sexual contact in 2016.

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In addition, 45 percent of female cadets and 17 percent of male cadets said they had experienced sexual harassment, up from 36 percent and 11 percent, respectively, in 2016. The report also showed that 28 percent of female cadets and 6 percent of male cadets in the academy reported experiencing gender discrimination, up from 11 percent and 4 percent in 2016.

"I want to drive sexual assault, unwanted sexual contact to zero in the Coast Guard,” Adm Karl Schultz, the head of the Coast Guard, said in response to the survey. “Will we do that in my lifetime? I don’t know, but we’re going to continue to lean in from a leadership standpoint.”

Yankee 2 company Cadre Mary Budri, right, puts female swabs through their paces during Day One of Swab Summer at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Monday. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

Yankee 2 company Cadre Mary Budri, right, puts female swabs through their paces during Day One of Swab Summer at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Monday. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

The survey, conducted by the Defense Department's Office of People Analytics, also found that 30 percent of female cadets who experienced unwanted sexual contact reported it. The so-called "reporting rate" among women had never been above 10 percent before.

Officials said that the increase in reports could stem from the Coast Guard's renewed focus on gender issues as well as new training programs, making cadets more willing to report misconduct than before, even on anonymous surveys.

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Data released earlier this year indicated that sexual assault reports are on the rise at the Army, Navy and Air Force academies, but more assaults may have gone unreported. For example, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. saw 56 reported assaults during the 2017-18 academic year compared to 11 in 2013-14  In all, 117 assaults were reported at the academies in 2017-18, up from a low of 29 in 2008-09. However, 747 students said they had experienced unwanted sexual contact last year, compared to 507 the year before.

More than half of the unwanted sexual contact incidents at the Army, Navy and Air Force academies involved alcohol.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. said last month that all U.S. military academies are "facing a sexual assault crisis and we are asleep at the wheel" as she pushed for a four-year pilot program that would provide for independent prosecutorial review of all sexual assault reports.

Fox News' Tyler Olson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.