Air Force Academy Leadership Failed to Act on Sexual Assaults

An investigation by the Denver Post found that Air Force Academy brass and board members failed to act aggressively to protect female cadets from a pattern of sexual assault over the past 20 years. The leadership, which has included members of Congress and some of the most respected military personnel in the country, was first told of the assaults in 1983 but did not aggressively investigate the problem of sexual misconduct, focusing instead on the routine business of the academy and on maintaining its reputation, according to the Post.

The Post’s review of meeting minutes and reports by the Board of Visitors from the past 25 years, along with interviews with current and former board members, staff members, and former cadets, show that lack of commitment and the brass’s urge to protect the image of the Academy prevented board members from genuinely addressing the problem. Members of the board felt they lacked authority to exercise aggressive oversight of the Academy and didn’t want to antagonize the staff. Many of them never even attended a board meeting. Academy brass also failed to disclose to the board the real extent and number of the assaults, the Post reports.

Other studies, recently released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the Air Force Academy has been a hostile environment for women ever since they arrived on campus in 1976. But before this year, when allegations of sexual assault were widely reported in the press, all the board’s annual reports to the President were positive, never mentioning rape or sexual assault or calling for any investigation, according to the Associated Press.

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Denver Post 6/15/03; Associated Press 6/16/03

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