Coast Guard Academy accused of sexual assault cover-up in Senate hearing

Coast Guard Academy accused of sexual assault cover-up in Senate hearing

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The U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., is at the center of a trial involving accusations of sexual harassment made by four women, who testified Tuesday before Congress.

The hearing was prompted by an investigation into how the Coast Guard allegedly covered up the findings of a previous probe, which substantiated numerous sexual assaults at the academy dating back to the 1980s, reports CNN.

“Faith in the Coast Guard within its own members is destroyed. It is not eroded, it is destroyed,” Lt. Melissa McCafferty said during Tuesday’s proceedings.

In her opening statement, she recounted multiple incidents in which she was raped and sexually assaulted by members of the academy, but shared details of a culture that made her feel too afraid to report the events.

“There exists a corrosive pattern of sexual assault, harassment, abuse, bullying, intimidation and retaliation. This is insidious, this is pervasive, and this is continuing to this day,” McCafferty added.

McCafferty addressed Congress alongside Cmdr. Jennifer Yount, Cadet 1st Class Kyra Grace Holmstrup, former academy member Caitlin Maro, and former U.S. Air Force member Col. Lorry Fenner, who currently serves as the Government Affairs Director for the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN).

Maro testified that she was forced to leave the academy after just one year, following repeated incidents of being “groped … sometimes with 30 laughing witnesses,” in addition to being “sexually harassed on a daily basis.”

She said she began taking her school assignments to the baseball dugouts and would use a flashlight in the dark, because she did not feel safe elsewhere. When she reported her incidents of assault, she claimed they were not investigated.

Yount and Holmstrup shared their own experiences of being assaulted, along with similar stories of the administration doing nothing, or not enough, in response.

“The world’s greatest Coast Guard let down all the women and men who have survived sexual military assault and trauma for the past 47 years,” testified Cmdr. Yount.

Col. Lorry Fenner, getting choked up, thanked the senators for allowing her to speak on behalf of SWAN at the hearing.

She also advocated for a number of policy changes, along with the “public naming and shaming” of perpetrators involved in sexual assault cases.

A recent internal report from the Coast Guard acknowledged its past failures and called for reforms in how the agency handles allegations of sexual assault, but did not address the call for past perpetrators to be held accountable.

Last week, the House Oversight Committee announced it had launched a new investigation into the U.S. Coast Guard’s “mishandling of serious misconduct,” which, along with sexual assault, allegedly includes racism and hazing.



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