The United States Coast Guard apologized on Friday for covering up dozens of cases of sexual assault over the past two decades.
According to an internal review of the Coast Guard by the Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Committee titled “Operation Fouled Anchor," 62 incidents of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment were committed at academies or by cadets between 1988 and 2006. It also revealed an additional 42 cases of that were never properly investigated.
Senators Maria Cantwell of Washington, the panel’s chairwoman, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, noted in a letter to Coast Guard officials that the panel's finding were “disturbing," and that they determined the organization had routinely “discouraged survivors from filing formal complaints or otherwise disclosing their assaults.”
The investigation was ongoing between 2014 and 2020, but the details were only released last week via CNN. In a statement Friday, a Coast Guard spokesman acknowledged the findings, and apologized to the victims in the cases.
“By not having taken appropriate action at the time of the sexual assaults, the Coast Guard may have further traumatized the victims, delayed access to their care and recovery, and prevented some cases from being referred to the military justice system for appropriate accountability," they said.
The spokesperson claimed that the organization has since made “major improvements” in investigating sexual assaults, and is “creating a culture to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment.”
However, in their letter, Cantwell and Baldwin noted that even officers found guilty were not often reprimanded, including at least two senior officers who were allowed to retire with a full pension and access to veterans’ benefits, which they still maintain, after being proven to have committed sexual crimes. Some officers were even recommended to the Senate for promotion in the midst of investigations against them.
The Senators said that the Coast Guard’s failure to disclose cases as “intentional.”
"It is unclear how many other officers had substantiated claims against them, were not disciplined, and remained in positions of leadership or management," they wrote.