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Sexism is ingrained in the culture at U.S. military academies and students are accustomed to dealing with offensive behavior which fuels sexual assaults, a Pentagon report released Friday revealed.
The annual report on sexual assaults at 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., concluded that the number of sexual assault reports have decreased in the last year, but encourages academy leaders to launch prevention programs.
In the school year that ended last May, 70 sexual assaults were reported at the academies, in comparison to the previous year's 80. In the context of the report, the Pentagon specifies that sexual assault means illegal sexual touching, groping, and rape.
17 of those reports were from a cadet or midshipmen who had been assaulted before arriving at academy, but were seeking counseling. Five additional victims were assaulted by civilians.
Defense officials said since most students downplay the inappropriate behavior, and reports of sexual assault may have dipped because students are reluctant to say anything due to peer pressure.
The report pinpointed athletic environments and alcohol consumption as problem circumstances where sexual assaults occur.
"If you have been a victim, please consider reaching out," Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, director of the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention program, said at a news conference Friday. "I assure you, you will be treated with the privacy you desire, the sensitivity you deserve, and the seriousness that this crime demands."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.