Sex abuse at US air force academy
By Suzanne Goldenberg
The Guardian
30 Aug 2003

America's air force academy yesterday confronted devastating evidence that it presided over a training regime that was hostile to women, with nearly 70% of female cadets reporting they had been sexually harassed, and nearly 20% sexually assaulted. 

The findings, in a draft report by the defence department's inspector general's office, comes just six months after six former cadets charged the academy with fostering a climate that condoned violence against women because it punished those who reported they had been raped. 

Although the air force vowed to embark on an "agenda for change", it was embroiled in another scandal this week when seven male cadets were caught drinking in a hotel room with under-age girls. 

In the survey of 579 female cadets, conducted last May, 68% said they had experienced sexual harassment, ranging from inappropriate language and emails to unwanted touching.

Some 18% said they had been sexually assaulted or raped - including 11% of this year's graduating class who said they had suffered rape or attempted rape. 

The survey also found that in 149 of the 177 incidents of assault reported, the attackers were their fellow male cadets. 

That fact - and the experience of earlier generations of recruits - may explain why only a third of the victims reported the assaults. Of those who did report assaults, nearly half said they suffered reprisals. 

That experience was consistent with the suffering of an earlier generation of cadets. Earlier this year, half a dozen women who had been at the academy came forward to describe a climate of harassment. They said women who reported rape or assault were routinely punished for minor offences, while no action was taken against their attackers. 

Their disclosures destroyed the notion perpetuated by the air force that sexual harassment was relatively rare in its ranks. Several commanders left the academy and reform was promised. 

Part of that reform process appears to be an atmosphere of openness. On Thursday, the new commander of the academy, Brigadier General Johnny Weida, told a graduating class: "If you don't think we have ... a sexual harassment problem at the air force academy, your head is in the sand."

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