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Women Seek Records From Military Academies

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CN) - The Service Women's Action Network and the ACLU sued the Department of Defense for records on admission rates and recruiting of women at military academies.

The U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy do not recruit or admit enough women to "foster a healthy environment" in which women are accepted and integrated into school and military life, the groups claim in their Feb. 3 FOIA complaint in Federal Court.

They claim that women face repeated acts of sexual violence at the male-dominated academies.

"These gender disparities contribute to campus climates rife with gender bias and discrimination," the complaints state. "These environments are conducive to sexual harassment and assault of cadets and midshipmen and lead to a culture of shunning and ostracizing those who report sexual violence. A Defense Advisory Committee has identified the limited number of women as a risk factor for rape and abuse, but the Academies have not remedied the disparity or the resulting misogynistic culture."

Despite 10 years of research into discrimination and harassment of women at the service academies, reports of sexual assaults on campus have actually risen, the plaintiffs say.

More than 90 percent of the victims are women, though women account for 20 percent or less of the student bodies.

The Secretary of Defense lifted the last combat restriction on servicewomen in 2013, and all branches are required to integrate women fully by Jan. 1, 2016. But the academies' continued failure to admit more women continues to stifle the career advancement of servicewomen, the complaint states.

The plaintiffs submitted FOIA requests to the DOD and each academy in November 2104, seeking records on admissions policies, rates of admission, recruiting efforts and admissions quotas for women, information on facilities for women, and policies and responses to sexual harassment and assault.

They modified the scope of their requests after each academy expressed difficulty in fulfilling the request, but as of Jan. 29, none of the academies or the DOD had adequately responded, the plaintiffs say.

They say the Naval Academy produced some records, but not enough, and neither West Point or the Air Force Academy produced anything.

They want to see the records.

Their lead counsel is Michael Wishnie.

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