APRIL 24, 2013 — The Inspector General of the Department of Transportation is being asked to review sexual assault and harassment prevention policies and reporting procedures established by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, N.Y. The request comes from Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements.
In response to surveys conducted in the 2009-2010 academic year, 11 incidents of actual or attempted rape or assault were reported from members of the Academy community, while 21 midshipmen reported they had been sexually harassed. The survey also found that midshipmen, faculty and staff did not believe that senior leadership had created an environment in which sexual assault and harassment were not tolerated or that investigations of reported incidents would be fair.
"Sexual assault and harassment are intolerable at any U.S. government facility, and particularly at a service academy," said Congressman Cummings. "I strongly support the recent measures developed by the Merchant Marine Academy's new leadership to combat sexual assault and sexual violence, and an Inspector General's review of the Academy's training and reporting procedures will help ensure every available step has been taken to protect midshipmen, faculty and staff at the Academy."
"The midshipmen at our Merchant Marine Academy need to know that sexual violence and harassment are punishable crimes with serious consequences and perpetrators will be brought to justice," said Congresswoman Speier. "We are calling on the Inspector General to determine if the academy's new policies are working to protect midshipmen and to deter sexual crimes."
The Merchant Marine Academy has developed a new "Plan to Reduce Sexual Assault and Harassment" that includes nine specific goals to create a "no tolerance and full reporting" environment. The Academy has also hired a new Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and adopted a new policy to allow unrestricted reporting of sexual assaults.