By Chester R. Curtis, U.S. ArmyNovember 1, 2019
Subject matter experts, college and university presidents, academics, and civilian and government leaders will also converge for the April 1-3 event.
"The purpose of this national discussion is to bring together leading experts and university leadership to better understand and address the challenges of eliminating sexual assault and sexual harassment at military service academies and on college and university campuses across the nation," said Dr. James Helis, director of the Army's Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention, Ready and Resilient Directorate in Washington, D.C.
"Through ongoing dialogue and collaboration, university leaders and subject matter experts will share challenges and successes in enacting effective policies to decrease and eliminate sexual assault and sexual harassment," he said.
This is the second year of the national discussion, an initiative developed by the secretaries of the Air Force and Navy, and Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper during his time as Army secretary. The conference demonstrates the resolve of the armed services to eradicate sexual assault and sexual harassment at the academies, in ROTC programs across the country and in the ranks of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
"West Point is honored to host this important discussion on eliminating sexual violence on our college and university campuses," said Army Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, West Point's superintendent. "Sexual assault and harassment have no place at West Point, on college campuses, or in our military. We must foster a climate of trust that respects and protects our students, whether they're attending civilian colleges and universities, or wearing a military uniform."
Results of a survey released by the Pentagon earlier this year reported students at the nation's military service academies experienced nearly a 50% increase in unwanted sexual contact during the last academic year.
The estimated number of occurrences of unwanted sexual contact -- behavior that ranges from groping to rape -- rose from 507 across all service academies during the 2015-2016 academic year to 747 in 2017-2018, according to a report from DOD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. Nearly 13,000 students attend the three academies.
Sexual assault, in the military and on campuses, has been under a microscope in recent years, with multiple research efforts dedicated to tracking assaults and preventing future violence. Working together, the Service secretaries believe academic leaders at this recurring event can develop and share strategies, which will make a significant impact on increasing awareness, improving education, strengthening prevention efforts, and providing care for victims.