Air Force Academy sex allegations growing

Feb. 21, 2003 at 11:16 AM
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DENVER, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A dozen former and current female cadets at the Air Force Academy allege they were sexually assaulted at the school in Colorado Springs, Colo., and then punished for reporting it.

Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said his office has received the reports of sexual assualt, the Denver Post reported on Friday.

Allard said he may ask for a full hearing before the Senate Armed Service Committee but he wants to first hear the findings of a special team of Air Force officers called in to investigate the allegations at the academy in Colorado Springs.

The Air Force Academy case has the potential of becoming one of the largest military sex scandals since 1991 Tailhook incident when Navy and Marine pilots molested Navy women at a Las Vegas hotel.

"We think the women are credible," Allard told the Post. "It seems like when a woman reports a rape case that the wheels get set in motion where she gets forced out of the academy. And not always is there a similar thing happening to the men."

Gen. S. Taco Gilbert III, commandant of cadets, has welcomed the investigation and denied there is a culture at the academy that punishes women for reporting sexual assaults.

"If there is a perception of a problem in the wing, we've tried to take that head on because I will not tolerate, I will not tolerate, retribution against a victim ... and I have made that very clear to the cadet wing," he said.

Allard said he met with members of the Air Force investigative team and they said they had some concerns after a preliminary examination.

"They indicated to me that they had interviewed some of the women. The investigators relayed to me that they had some legitimate concerns," the senator said.

Cadets told KMGH they were punished after reporting they had been sexually assaulted. One said she left the academy after commanders responded to her complaint by charging her with violating rules against drinking, fraternizing with upperclassmen and having sex in the dormitories.

Following rape allegations in 1993 the academy set up the Center for Character Development to promote ethical conduct and established a 24-hour rape hot line three years later. There have been 99 calls reporting some kind of sexual assault since then and eight cadets have been dismissed, according to the academy.

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