The United States Coast Guard Academy reports 10% of all female cadets experienced unwanted sexual contact, a 2% increase from the previous year. More than half of the women that reported sexual abuse had said alcohol and/or drugs were used as a tool to commit these crimes. Unwanted sexual contact includes a range of behaviors, from sexual assault to rape.
Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz the academy’s superintendent calls the increase of sexual abuse as “somewhat natural”. She was quoted in a New London-The Day article saying:
“If, one time, a guy or gal is clumsy or stupid and tries to touch someone and they’re repulsed, they learn. Someone who goes around and keeps trying many times, that’s a different kind of behavior than someone who is awkward and experimenting.”
Sexual assault is not being “clumsy” or “stupid” but a violent crime –a felony with lifelong consequences for the survivor. Sexual Assault is sexual assault regardless if it happened once or if it happened repetitively over a period of time. The Coast Guard Academy should not tolerate sexual assault and the superintendent should stop making excuses for sex predators.
Shannon Norenberg, the new sexual assault response coordinator for the Coast Guard Academy tells The Day that she plans to teach the cadets what they should do to protect themselves. By teaching cadets on how “not to get raped” we are putting the responsibility of preventing rape on the woman and not on the rapist.
Rape is not caused by an outfit or by how much someone drinks. Rape is caused only by the rapist-the Coast Guard needs to stop blaming the victim and end rape by telling men to not rape and start prosecuting men that do rape. The most effective way to reduce sexual assault and rape is to eradicate a culture in which sex crime is acceptable.
The Coast Guard Academy integrated women into the Academy in 1976. The United States Coast Guard’s official website quoted cadets from incoming class in 1976 and many felt that the “only women who found sexual discrimination were those who looked for it”. Almost 40 years later the attitude towards women at the Academy remained the same.
The Military Rape Crisis Center saw a much needed need for sexual abuse survivors at the Coast Guard Academy and currently offers two support groups in New London specifically for Coast Guard Academy cadets. A common concern among participants in the groups is that reporting a sex crime is close to impossible and even if they do report the assault “it’ll go nowhere”. Of the 30+ female cadets that responded that they have been victim of a sex crime in the survey only three came forward to report the crimes. In all three cases the United States Coast Guard Academy chose not to prosecute the perpetrators.
While the Department of Defense is trying to make strive in preventing sexual violence within its ranks, the United States Coast Guard which falls under the Department of Homeland Security is falling way behind.
The cadets at the Coast Guard Academy are the future leaders of the United States Coast Guard. When the cadets graduate and become officers they would take with them the knowledge and skills that they learned during their time at the Academy. Along with their specific job skills and leadership skills they have also been taught that sexual assault and rape is “somewhat natural”. They would deal with a rape under their command by thinking that the sexual predator is only being “clumsy” or “stupid”.
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