The Pentagon on Thursday appointed a sexual assault expert to a panel investigating the recent rape scandal at the Air Force Academy. Anita Carpenter, the chief executive officer of the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault, is the only sexual assault expert or victim advocate appointed to the panel. Carpenter was appointed shortly after panelist Amy McCarthy resigned under heavy criticism for blaming the female cadets for being raped because they were engaging in “high-risk behaviors.” In fact, Carpenter told the Denver Post that one of her biggest challenges would be in dispelling myths, such as “if she went back to his room, she must have wanted intercourse. … Or [people] say, ‘Well, she shouldn’t have been drinking’.” In addition, the panel’s executive director Anita Blair, a former vice president of the ultraconservative Independent Women’s Forum and outspoken opponent of women in the military, was removed.
Women’s rights advocates hail Carpenter’s appointment as an important step in ensuring that the review of rape and sexual assault allegations at the Air Force Academy is fair and thorough. The National Organization for Women has issued on its website a call for all future national investigations into sexual violence automatically include sexual violence experts and victim advocates.
Documents released Thursday show that dozens of cases of sexual assault and rape have been investigated by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations since 1993. A report issued in late June by the Air Force Working Group found that though first-year cadets make up only 29 percent of the school’s population, they made up 53 percent of the alleged victims, according to the Associated Press. The Air Force documents note several incidents involving first-year women and senior men.