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Naval Academy tries more to deter sexual assaults

Wednesday - 8/21/2013, 7:40pm  ET

BRIAN WITTE
Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- The U.S. Naval Academy is planning to make training to prevent sexual assault part of the regular academic work day, still trying to deter to the problem that plagues the military.

Commandant Capt. Bill Byrne said Wednesday that the change is part of the academy's Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Education initiative. The training had been done at night, during briefings and in role-playing exercises outside of classroom hours.

Byrne, who has been in Annapolis as commandant for about three months, said academy officials are still working out details about how to make the adjustment, which will start in the spring semester for first-year students and become part of the curriculum.

"The leadership division and the faculty are figuring out exactly what it means to the student in the classroom, and we aren't there yet," said Byrne, whose position resembles a dean of students at a civilian college. "But I feel good that everybody's in agreement that it's the right thing to do."

In 2007, the academy looked to bring a more structured approach to making officer candidates more conscious about sexual misconduct. It provided 30 hours of training over a midshipman's four years. It focuses on explaining what rape is and the psychological effects of the crime.

It also includes discussions about dating, consent, how alcohol can hurt relationships and the legal problems they could face if charged with sexual assault. It also includes how bystanders can stop sexual assault.

The program started after a series of high-profile sexual misconduct cases at the academy. In April 2007, the school expelled former football star Lamar Owens after he was acquitted of raping a fellow midshipman but convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer. Also that month, another former football player, Kenny Ray Morrison, was convicted of sexually assaulting a fellow midshipman.

This year's change comes as a string of sexual assault cases in the military drew the attention of Congress, the Pentagon and the White House. President Barack Obama addressed the problem when he spoke at the academy's commissioning ceremony in May. The president said those who commit sexual assault threaten the trust and discipline that makes the military strong.

Sexual misconduct allegations also have been prominent at Navy this year. A hearing to determine whether three former Navy football players will face a court-martial in a sexual assault case is expected to begin this month. The assault allegedly took place at an off-campus house in Annapolis last year.


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