A West Point cadet previously charged of raping a classmate in 2016 was exonerated on Monday after a military judicial panel ruled there was not enough evidence to prove the act was nonconsensual, according to CBS News.
Jacob Whisenhunt was sentenced to 21 years in prison for raping a cadet in her sleeping bag two years ago but has since returned to the military academy.
Whisenhunt’s case may point to a systemic problem in the military, where only 1.5 percent of rape reports result in convictions, according to Former Air Force chief prosecutor Don Christensen.
On appeal, the three judge panel said there was no evidence that Whisenhunt threatened the victim, who claimed she “froze in fetal position” after he began the act. The victim also failed to alert nearby cadets during the incident, the panel added.
"It is even harder to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant would anticipate that LM would not make any reflexive noise or movements upon being awakened, which would have alerted multiple others to his criminal activity," the panel’s opinion, reviewed by CBS News, reads.
Christensen, who is now president of a military rape-focused advocacy group, said the ruling “sends a horrible message” and will “dissuade future victims from coming forward.”
According to the Department of Defense sexual assault in the military climbed 40% from 2016 to 2018, with close to 20,500 service members experiencing "contact or penetrative sexual assault" last year.