West Point Shifts Focus of Sexual Assault Awareness Program

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks about leadership during the commencement ceremony for the U.S. Military Academy Class of 2018. (DoD photo/James K. McCann)
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks about leadership during the commencement ceremony for the U.S. Military Academy Class of 2018. (DoD photo/James K. McCann)

WEST POINT -- The official in charge of West Point's program to combat sexual assault and harassment told the military academy's Board of Visitors on Monday that they are changing the emphasis of their education program.

"We're refocusing education on what to do, as opposed to what not to do," Samantha Ross, manager of West Point's Sexual Harassment & Assault Response and Prevention program, told the panel.

Ross said cynicism and topic fatigue was setting in among some cadets.

They reasoned that if they were not doing anything wrong themselves, they didn't need to attend the educational programs to hear a list of things they shouldn't do.

This year's Relationships 101 Symposium, scheduled for Oct. 21-23, will have as its theme "Unlocking the Mysteries of Human Relationships."

The Board of Visitors, a panel of House and Senate members and presidential appointees, meets three times a year to hear updates on all aspects of West Point's academic, military and physical programs.

They submit an annual report to the president with their recommendations.

Ross said there were 57 reports of sexual assault or sexual harassment made to West Point officials in the 2017-18 academic year, up from 46 the previous year.

A cadet found guilty of such offenses can face penalties including being booted from the Army, serving time in a military prison and having to repay the cost of his or her West Point education.

Almost two-thirds of the 2017-18 cases -- 65 percent -- involved cadets as both the aggressor and the victim.

The number of cases that took place on West Point property was down to 54 percent from 74 percent the previous year.

Panel member Frederick H. Black Sr. asked whether any cadets have had experiences with sexual assault or sexual harassment before coming to West Point.

Ross said about 16 percent have had such experiences.

The October symposium will address topics ranging from "The Ethics of Love" to the importance of consent in a relationship.

"We have a lot of high hopes for this to spark further conversations," Ross said.

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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