Following an investigative news piece by Denver’s 7NEWS last week, the Pentagon has launched an investigation of the Air Force Academy for allegedly punishing women cadets who reported sexual assaults by fellow students, according to the Washington Post. Victims of rape and sexual assault report that they were disciplined, ostracized by the Academy and their peers, particularly upperclassmen, and in some cases forced to leave. There have been 96 reports of sexual assault to the Academy’s rape hotline since 1996; only 20 cases have been formally investigated, eight cadets have been dismissed, and no cadets have been court-martialed for assault, according to the New York Times. Only about 16 percent of Air Force cadets are women.
“There is tremendous pressure on these cadets, men and women, not to break the silence. If you’re raped, the whole academy – the corps of cadets and the administration – wants you to keep it to yourself. They turn against you if you report a fellow cadet,” said Dorothy Mackey, a former Air Force captain who counsels military sexual assault victims though Survivors Take Action Against Abuse by Military Personnel (STAMP), according to the Post. After receiving a call from a former cadet who was allegedly raped at the Academy, Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) got involved, asking for an investigation of not only the Air Force Academy but all the service academies, according to the Times.
The Air Force Academy was previously investigated for pervasive problems of rape ten years ago, when the Academy created Cadets Advocating Sexual Integrity and Education (CASIE), a volunteer organization providing counseling and advice for victims of abuse or harassment, according to the Post. In addition, the Academy set up an “amnesty system” to encourage victims to report sexual assault without fear of being punished for lesser offenses, such as underage drinking, according to theAssociated Press. However, interview with the cadets by 7NEWS indicate that these minor offenses are at least sometimes used to discredit accusations of sexual assault or to coerce victims into remaining quiet about assaults. In fact, 7NEWS reports that some victims were punished for serious offenses such as sexual activity in cadet dorms and fraternization with upperclassmen, despite the fact that these women were coerced or physically forced to engage in these activities.