A sergeant in charge of the health and welfare of 125 cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point is accused of secretly filming female cadets in the shower and elsewhere, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
Sgt. First Class Michael McClendon, whom the school describes as a staff adviser “responsible for the health, welfare and discipline” of a company of West Point cadets, is being charged with indecent acts, dereliction in the performance of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and actions prejudicial to good order and discipline. Officials said some of the images appear to have been taken in the shower, and others appear to have been taken consensually.
West Point contacted a dozen women to let them know about the images and to offer them "the full range of support."
“The Army is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of our cadets at the Military Academy at West Point — as well as all soldiers throughout our Army,” Gen. John F. Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff, said on Wednesday. “Once notified of the violation, a full investigation was launched, followed by swift action to correct the problem. Our cadets must be confident that issues such as these are handled quickly and decisively, and that our system will hold those responsible accountable.”
The scandal is the latest in a string of high-profile military scandals involving sexual assault. The Air Force official in charge of its sexual assault prevention program was arrested for sexual battery earlier this month after he allegedly groped a woman in the parking lot of a Virginia bar. The following week, news reports surfaced that a soldier in charge of a sexual assault prevention program in Fort Hood, Texas, was under investigation for "abusive sexual conduct," and the manager of the sexual assault prevention office at the Fort Campbell military base in Kentucky was fired after he violated his ex-wife's order of protection.
The Pentagon released a report earlier this month estimating that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted in 2012, a sharp rise from the 19,000 estimated assaults in 2011. And officials say the true number may be higher, considering the victims who never come forward with their claims.
In response to the growing problem, members of Congress have introduced a flurry of legislation seeking to reform the military's justice system. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered the military to retrain and recertify each military staffer responsible for administering sexual assault prevention programs. “We all have committed to turn this around, and we’re going to fix the problem,” Hagel said at a news conference last week. “The problem will be solved here, in this institution, and we will fix it.”