Connecticut Lawsuit Reveals Military Sex Assault Data

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Margaret Middleton
Margaret Middleton

That trend was reflected in the Coast Guard as a whole, where the number of reported sexual assaults increased from 88 in 2011 to 156 in 2012. At a hearing before a Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year, the Coast Guard's judge advocate general testified he was working to reverse the increases in sexual assaults.

At the same time, the Coast Guard commandant has indicated a zero tolerance on sexual assault. "Not in my Coast Guard," he said in his recent State of the Coast Guard Address.

According to Panayiota Bertzikis, a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard who is executive director of the Military Rape Crisis Center at the academy, problems persist. She runs support groups for cadets who have been assaulted, but for the most part, never reported.

About 40 women and 10 men currently attend the sessions. "We work with the cadets one on one, and we tell them if they want to report what happened, we will help them," Bertzikis said. "A lot of the times, they don't want to make an on-record report, because they are afraid it will hurt their career. So a lot of the time, they don't want to go through a full legal investigation."

Bertzikis said when sex crimes do occur, the academy could remove the accused cadet from service and allow prosecution to take place in state Superior Court. "I've never seen that happen, I've never seen a state prosecution," she said. Instead, the Coast Guard handles the matters internally, which is usually a difficult ordeal for the victim, even when the charged person is punished by being discharge. "Most of the time, the victim gets kicked out of the service, too," she said.•

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