Nearly half of the women studying at the nation’s military academies have reported being exposed to “unwelcome, deliberate physical contact of a sexual nature,” according to a congressional report on sexual harassment in the service academies that was released Monday.
The report by the General Accounting Office, the investigative branch of Congress, updates a January 1994 report that detailed sweeping harassment of women in the academies, as well as an attitude among male recruits that females don’t belong in the armed services.
The latest study added a question that was modeled on the Department of Defense definition of sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination involving “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature” that could affect a person’s job, pay or career; interfere with an individual’s performance; or create an “intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.”
The GAO surveyed female recruits at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.; and the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo., during the 1993-94 academic year.
Similar to its previous findings, the most common forms of sexual harassment were verbal comments and visual displays, such as offensive posters or signs and graffiti.
But in response to the added question, between 36 percent and 42 percent of the women at each school reported being exposed at least once or twice to “unwelcome, deliberate physical contact of a sexual nature,” which was defined in the report as groping, patting, fondling, kissing or hugging.
Between 39 percent and 42 percent said the contact affected their performance or rendered the environment intimidating, hostile or offensive.
And between 60 percent and 72 percent of the women reported some exposure to repeated unwelcome verbal comments related to their gender, and said that the remarks sometimes created an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
Among male recruits, only 11 percent reported suffering some form of recurring sexual harassment.