The Navy has a serious problem with rapes, sexual assaults and violations of "fraternization" rules at its sprawling training center in Orlando, Fla., but often has failed to seek appropriate punishment for the offenders, according to a Pentagon investigation.

In the 18 months that ended June 30, the Navy's inspector general reported there were at least six rapes of female students or recruits at the Orlando Naval Training Center, but the Navy has not prosecuted any of those accused.

During the same 18 months, female recruits at Orlando -- which includes the Navy's only boot camp for women -- reported 24 rapes or sexual assaults. Navy law enforcement officials "substantiated or resolved" eight of the rape cases and five instances of sexual assault, including indecent exposure and attempted rape, the report said. Investigators concluded that two of those who said they were raped had made false statements. Only one of the 13 cases, an assault case, resulted in court-martial proceedings.

According to the inspector general's report, which was provided to The Washington Post in response to a request, the Navy's failure to take appropriate action against offenders in numerous sex-related cases at the Orlando training facility has contributed to an atmosphere that makes women "feel like they are second-class members of the Navy."

In at least three of the sexual assault cases, the men involved were supervisors or instructors of the women who said they were attacked, according to the inspector general.

In 13 other cases between January 1989 and last June, supervisory officers or instructors allegedly violated fraternization rules by having social or sexual relationships with young female recruits, the investigation found.

Many of the men involved in both the sexual assaults and the fraternization cases were noncommissioned officers in supervisory roles, the report said.

The investigation found that some alleged offenders were returned to their jobs and continued working near the victims, that others were transferred from Orlando or released from the Navy -- avoiding prosecution -- and that some victims may have been so intimidated by investigators that they did not press charges.

The inspector general's report, which has provoked bitter conflicts within the Navy, highlights some of the most sensitive and controversial issues facing today's all-volunteer military and its growing percentage of female personnel.

About 11 percent of the military's 2.1 million active-duty officers and enlisted personnel are women. The Navy, in the past year, has been placed under the harshest scrutiny of any service for its treatment of women because of a series of alleged rapes and incidents of sexual harassment at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and two recent rapes of female service members aboard naval ships.

The Navy's chief of education and training, Vice Adm. John S. Disher, characterized the problems cited at the Florida training center as occurring "throughout the entire Navy" and said "much more must be done" to remedy the shortcomings.

The problems at the training center have raised new concerns in the Navy over the negative message it could send to new sailors.

"The standards there {at Orlando} will set the tone for a member's entire career in the Navy," wrote the service's chief of technical training in response to the inspector general's report, which was circulated to Navy officials.

The criticism of the Orlando training center, however, has been particularly embarrassing for the Navy because it assigned one of its highest-ranking female officers to command the base and its schools.

Disher said the training center commander, Rear Adm. Louise C. Wilmot, "has been in the forefront . . . in her efforts to decrease incidents of sexual harassment, abuse and assault," but he said "this report indicates that much more must be done in Orlando, within the Naval Education and Training Command, and presumably, throughout the entire Navy."

In a written response to the inspector general's findings, Wilmot said, "I am always looking for better ways to improve the quality of life for our sailors and your recommendations have made positive impact on the center."

Rep. Beverly B. Byron (D-Md.), chairman of the House Armed Services military personnel and compensation subcommittee, blamed the problems at the training center on "a breakdown in leadership and oversight of the leadership."

Byron received a copy of the report under a Navy policy that requires such reviews to be provided to Congress 24 hours before they are released to a journalist. The Navy released the report to The Post Friday.

Wilmot, whose command includes 14,000 staff members and advanced students and trains about 30,000 recruits annually, has been ordered to give the inspector general reports every 60 days updating her efforts to correct the problems found at the training center. Naval authorities have written that they are satisfied with Wilmot's corrective efforts since the initial investigation was conducted in July.

The inspector general recommended that Wilmot order that all instructors and staff personnel be retrained to improve their sensitivity to issues involving sexual assault, harassment and fraternization. According to the report:

Some victims may have been "revictimized during the interrogation process" with the Naval Investigative Service and "may have recanted statements to avoid further contact with NIS."

Interviews conducted with female staff members, students and recruits indicate that "considerable sexual harassment occurs."

Investigators agreed with boot camp staff members who "feel there is a serious fraternization problem" and that "punishment for fraternization offenses amounted to a 'slap on the wrist.' "

Many company commanders -- male and female -- use obscene and sexually graphic language in attempts to motivate recruits. "This is a form of sexual harassment, is intimidating and demoralizing, and also sends a strong signal to developing sailors that such behavior is acceptable."

The inspector general's report and interviews with top commanders at the Orlando training center found that victim advocacy groups, medical authorities, law enforcement officials and naval commanders failed to coordinate their efforts to track reports of rape and other sex-related crimes and violations.

In 1989, there were 16 rapes reported at the center, according to the Naval Investigative Service, which said it closed five of them. In those five cases, one accused man was dismissed from the service rather than court-martialed, charges were dismissed against two for lack of evidence and the commanding officers at the base took no action on the other two.

In one of the dismissed cases, a young female recruit said she was raped by a male sailor while both were working in a base kitchen. The woman identified her alleged assailant, but refused to testify at a military court hearing. The morning of the hearing, the woman awoke to find a condom hanging on the knob of her barracks door.

Naval authorities did not investigate that incident at the time, the report said. Subsequent inquiries by the inspector general and The Washington Post found that the victim had been warned not to testify by unidentified men who threatened to ruin her reputation and sabotage her military career. The case has not been prosecuted.

Several other rape and sexual assault incidents involved "what is now commonly called acquaintance rape or date rape," according to Navy investigators. In recent weeks, the training center has incorporated warnings about date rape and alcohol abuse into the "liberty lectures" given just before recruits are allowed their first unchaperoned leave from the base. Wilmot said many of the men accused of fraternization and sex-related offenses are punished at administrative hearings rather than courts-martial.

In one case, a chief petty officer instructor was charged with two counts of indecent assault on two female recruits and was docked two months' pay and transferred from the command.

A first-class petty officer charged with nine counts of indecent exposure was taken to a special court-martial and sentenced to 60 days of hard labor at the base. He was denied a promotion and transferred from a leadership position to the budget office, officials said.

"I've looked at the numbers," said Vice Adm. Michael Boorda, the Navy's personnel chief. "They certainly are not pleasing. But the problem is not being ignored. The training is being done and the people are aware of the problem. People are being found guilty and punished. Is the punishment fair or not fair? That is a personal judgment."