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West Point Makes Progress Against Sexual Assaults

U.S. Military Academy cadets wait to receive their diplomas during their graduation ceremony at West Point, May 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo/Michelle Eberhart)
U.S. Military Academy cadets wait to receive their diplomas during their graduation ceremony at West Point, May 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo/Michelle Eberhart)

WEST POINT -- West Point is continuing to make progress in its fight against sexual assault, the military academy's superintendent told its Board of Visitors on Monday.

During the 2016-17 academic year, there were 29 unrestricted reports of sexual assault, compared to 19 the year before.

An unrestricted report is one referred to the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, which can lead to prosecution.

There also were 21 restricted reports, up from six the year before. Victims in those cases only receive counseling and medical treatment.

Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr. said the numbers don't mean such offenses are happening more frequently, just that cadets are more willing to report them.

"We see this as a good story," Caslen told the board. "It shows confidence in the system."

The board, which includes members of the Senate and House of Representatives and presidential appointees from the private sector, meets several times a year to assess how West Point is fulfilling its mission. It submits an annual report to the president.

Of the 29 cases noted by Caslen, probable cause to pursue action was found in eight cases; four were found not to have probable cause; three involved incidents outside West Point's jurisdiction; five complainants subsequently declined to pursue the case; and nine are still under investigation.

Caslen singled out the case of former cadet Jacob Whisenhunt -- while not mentioning him by name -- a member of the class of 2019 who was found guilty in May of the sexual assault of a female cadet during training last summer.

He was dismissed from the academy and sentenced to 21 years of confinement at a military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

When board member Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut asked if the 21-year sentence was "commensurate" with the crime committed, Caslen and other academy officials declined to comment because Caslen still has some administrative steps to take regarding the case.

Board Vice Chair Sue Fulton asked about the other seven probable cause cases. West Point officials said those were handled administratively. Caslen said some had to pay back their tuition.

Board members asked at their spring meeting in Washington, D.C., how they might help West Point combat sexual assault.

Caslen said Monday those who nominate candidates to military academies should look at those candidates' social media accounts, use interview questions designed to elicit details about their character, or have them write an essay on character.

This article is written by Michael Randall from The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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