More than a decade after it first started admitting female cadets, military college the Citadel — located in Charleston, South Carolina — continues to be dogged by charges of sexual harassment. In the results of a survey released on Wednesday, the state-funded college reported that last spring nearly 20 percent of female cadets at the school said they had been sexually assaulted since enrolling. In addition, 4 percent of male cadets reported being sexually assaulted since joining the formerly all-male school.
"Some wonder why I would release information that reflects negatively on the college," the school's president, retired Air Force Lieutenant General John Rosa, said in a statement on Wednesday. "My reason is simple: In order for us to address these issues, we must discuss them openly. ... These issues are ones that concern every college president because they pose some of the greatest risks that young people on our campuses face — risks that can keep them from fulfilling their potential and haunt them throughout their lives. Those issues are a general lack of respect for one another, misuse of alcohol, sexual harassment and sexual assault."
Last year, 118 women and 1,770 men were enrolled at the Citadel, and all the women and about 30 percent of the men were asked to complete the anonymous online survey, with 114 women and 487 men responding. The survey mentioned 27 sexual assaults against women, only 17 of which were reported to authorities. Half the women who did not report assaults said they worried about being ostracized, harassed or ridiculed if they did, while others said they feared being labeled a troublemaker or thought they could deal with it themselves. In addition to unwanted touching, 16 of the 27 incidents reported by women and 15 of the 23 reported by men involved unwanted sexual penetration or oral sex.
The majority of the reported incidents involving women occurred in the barracks or elsewhere on campus. More than half also said the perpetrator was another cadet, the survey reported, with some cadets saying they had been sexually assaulted more than once.
Tara Woodside, a junior who helps teach cadets in the school's Values and Respect program, said she has been subjected to "comments, innuendo, and name-calling" since arriving on campus. "But nothing I haven't gotten walking down the street downtown or in New York or Germany," she told The Associated Press. "I think the spotlight is on the school because a higher standard is expected." Sixty-eight percent of the women reported one or more incidents of sexual harassment, including sexual stories, jokes and offensive remarks.
Anita Sanchez, director of communications for the Miles Foundation — a private nonprofit that provides services to victims of violence associated with the military — suspected that the numbers in the Citadel report might not have told the real story. "There is significant underreporting in these kinds of Department of Defense and military-academy reports," Sanchez said. "So reality may reflect higher numbers." While some 30 percent of Citadel graduates go on to join the military, a spokesperson stressed that it is a state school and has no military affiliation.
The co-author of a survey of sexual harassment on college campuses that was released earlier this year, "Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus," was encouraged that the Citadel was studying the topic.
"Their findings corroborated a lot of our findings," Catherine Hill of the American Association of University Women said. "The rate of reports of sexual assault were somewhat higher, but not dissimilar than what we saw in the college population. We found that about two-thirds of students experienced some sexual harassment, though they did have a higher instance of rape and assault than we found. It's a positive thing that they're taking this seriously."
Rosa, a Citadel graduate, said he was disappointed by the results because of his love for the institution. "Most of what I saw did not surprise me because we are dealing with this in this segment of society across this nation," he said, according to AP. Based on the results of the survey, Rose enacted a Values and Respect Program to educate cadets on topics including sexual harassment, alcohol abuse, the honor code and racism.