ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Four male midshipmen have been charged with assaulting two female midshipmen by sneaking into their rooms and pummeling them with pillows, a U.S. Naval Academy spokesman said Friday.
"Right now it looks like four midshipmen played a prank that went too far and two women were slightly injured," said Cmdr. Mike John, an academy spokesman. Both women were bruised and one had a black eye.
The incident occurred the week before the Dec. 5 Army-Navy football game in the dormitory where all midshipmen live.
"This is not a sexual harassment incident," John said. "It is an incident of Army-Navy game excitement that went awry."
He said similar attacks involved only men.
The four men, whom John would not identify, were charged with assault after a preliminary inquiry. The charges are administrative, not criminal. The men could be given punishments ranging from demerits to dismissal if found guilty, he said.
John said the two women did not report the incident. It was discovered when officers inquired about the bruises, he said.
Jeremy Gray, an academy senior from Dayton, Ohio, said an assault with a pillow is called a "Mack truck" by midshipmen, apparently because victims feel as if they have been hit by a truck.
The incident happened at a time when the Navy and the academy are under close scrutiny because of highly publicized incidents of sexual harassment.
In 1989, a female midshipman was handcuffed to a urinal, photographed and taunted. Two assailants were given demerits and six others were reprimanded.
An alleged assault on more than 26 women by Navy and Marine aviators at the Tailhook Assn. convention in 1991 led to the resignation of Navy Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett III.