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AP: Sharp rise in reports of sexual assault at US military academies

United States Military Academy graduating cadets march to their graduation ceremony at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y., May 22, 2021. AP reporting broke the news that reports of sexual assaults at the U.S. military academies increased sharply during the 2020-2021 school year, as students returned to in-person classes amid the ongoing pandemic. The increase continues what officials believe is an upward trend at the academies, despite an influx of new sexual assault prevention and treatment programs. (AP Photo / Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

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Tipped off by a longtime source, and standing firm on her rigorous reporting, Lolita Baldor broke news ahead of a Pentagon announcement: Sexual assaults reported at U.S. military academies have risen sharply.

Baldor is a veteran Pentagon reporter who has written often about sexual assault. For this scoop, an officer she met at Fort Bragg several years ago set up a meeting with a senior Pentagon leader who voiced his concerns — and the Army’s — with the increase in sexual assaults.

Baldor took that information and began the tedious process of digging through reports and chasing the elite military academies, as well as her Pentagon sources, using each new bit of information with the next person to get a full picture of the numbers at all the academies.

The Defense Department carefully guards data on sexual assault and advised personnel not to confirm the numbers to Baldor. But by then she had multiple sources with the totals. Recognizing it couldn’t stop the story, the DOD approached Baldor, suggesting her numbers might be wrong (they weren’t) and offering a background briefing if she would hold her piece until the following day. Baldor told them she would hold it only until 11 a.m.

With AP set to publish, senior Pentagon officials then confirmed the numbers and Baldor was able to break the story early, with additional confirmation and added context. Her story moved more than an hour before the Pentagon announcement.

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