© Reuters.  Sharp increase in reports of sexual assault at elite U.S. Army academy© Reuters. Sharp increase in reports of sexual assault at elite U.S. Army academy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – There was a sharp rise in reports of sexual assault at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the last academic year, according to a Pentagon study released on Wednesday, highlighting an issue that has long plagued the military and its academies.

The annual report said 50 cases of sexual assault had been reported at the elite U.S. Army academy during the 2016-2017 academic year, nearly double the number from the previous school year.

Sexual assault and harassment in the U.S. military is largely under-reported and came under renewed scrutiny last year after a scandal involving some Marines sharing nude photos of women online came to light.

Officials believe that one reason for the increase in reporting at the academy in upstate New York may have been a change in the reporting policy and relocation of a victim assistance office.

“By moving the offices to a more accessible, less observable place, more cadets may have felt comfortable reporting sexual assault allegations,” the report said.

The number of reports of sexual assault at the U.S. Naval Academy and Air Force Academy increased only slightly. Across the three academies, reports of sexual assault increased 30 percent in the past school year.

The report also said that late in the academic year, the military found significant evidence of mismanagement and unprofessionalism at the sexual assault prevention office at the Air Force Academy.

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