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Anonymous vs. official reports of sexual assault at USMMA

Midshipmen salute during the ceremony as more than

Midshipmen salute during the ceremony as more than 220 future Merchant Marine and Military Officers graduate from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point held at Tomb Field on the academy's campus, Saturday, June 21, 2014. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Government reports that document sexual assault and sexual harassment at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy show the challenge of arriving at an accurate assessment of the problem.
The reports to the U.S. Transportation Department, which has jurisdiction over the school, show that the number of midshipmen who said they had been sexually assaulted consistently exceeded the number of complaints officially filed with the academy.
The reports were required by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009.

  • In the 2009-10 school year, the first anonymous survey of students after the law took effect found 11 incidents of actual or attempted rape or assault. No official reports of sexual assault were filed that year. The school handled two complaints of alleged sexual harassment on a commercial vessel.
  • In the 2011-12 survey, 25 midshipman anonymously reported being sexually assaulted. No official reports of sexual assault were filed that year.
  • The 2013-14 survey used weighted estimates, based on anonymous student responses, to give ranges. Nineteen to 28 women and eight to 24 men reported they were sexually assaulted. That year, the school had three official reports of sexual assault.
  • Reports for years in which anonymous surveys of midshipmen were not done showed the academy received six official reports of sexual assault in 2010-11, four in 2012-13 and one in 2014-15.

The sexual-assault data in two of the reports that had midshipmen’s anonymous responses included references to incidents during the Sea Year.

  • The 2009-10 report said “the most frequent sources of harassment were ships’ crew on commercial vessels during the midshipmen’s Sea Year (135 incidents) and other midshipmen (133 incidents).”
  • The 2012-13 report said, “Sea Year is problematic because the academy has no jurisdiction over shipping company employees, so the academy depends upon the individual shipping company to enforce their own policies and procedures while midshipmen are embarked on their vessels.”

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