As investigation continues into reports of at least 56 sexual assaults at the United States Air Force Academy over the past 10 years, military officials are proposing changes that include housing male and female cadets in separate dormitories and training Air Force nurses and investigators to deal with sexual assault.
Officials with a 17-member Air Force investigative team have spent the past two weeks in Colorado Springs, where the Academy is located, looking into the issue after current and former women cadets said that they had been disciplined for reporting rape or assault, in some cases being forced to leave. A report by the National Organization for Women (NOW) indicates that this problem has been ongoing for many years – a 1994 report by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that 78 percent of the 90 female cadets at the Air Force Academy reported sexual assaults or unwanted sexual advances, according to NOW.
Some victims’ advocate groups believe that separating male and female cadets will only add to the problems. “Segregating women is a very short-term and far too simplistic solution,” Kate Summers a spokeswoman for the Miles Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps victims of violence in the military, told the Associated Press. “It would be more appropriate to look at the hierarchical system they have, where the cadets that are senior can treat others as slaves. That’s abuse of power.”
While the Academy set up a 24-hour rape hotline and sexual assault counseling center in reaction to sexual assault allegations in 1993, women cadets reportedly go outside the military to report assaults because of fear of reprisal. Trust Education Safety Support Action (TESSA), a rape crisis center in Colorado Springs (TESSA) has said that at least 38 female cadets reported assaults to their center. Military officials met with representatives from TESSA for several hours earlier this week to discuss ways to improve the system currently in place for sexual assault victims at the Academy. The Pentagon hopes to make recommendations for changes sometime later this month, Air Force Lt. Col. Dewey Ford told the Christian Science Monitor.