Cadet says rape used as retaliation in academy
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON -- In a letter to a congressional panel investigating sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy, a former cadet paints a vivid portrait of the retaliation that can occur for reporting a crime there.
The academy graduate, whose name was not released, said she was ostracized by cadets and raped at the Air Force Preparatory School by two male cadets because she reported that she had been raped.
Col. David Cannon, Air Force Academy spokesman, said files were searched Friday, but no cases that fit the description of the incident were found.
"That's a very severe allegation," Cannon said. "We take it very seriously. We have no reason to doubt what is in that lady's letter. We just haven't found it yet."
Members of the panel Friday said the incident is typical of those that have created a climate of fear at the institution.
"The retaliation can be as high as physical threats, violence, actual violence taken against the cadets," said Laura Miller, a member of the congressional panel investigating the academy. The panel would not release the letter.
For years, surveys of female cadets showed they were reluctant to report sexual harassment or assaults.
Figures compiled by the Defense Department inspector general show only one in five sexual assaults was reported due to fear of retaliation or ostracism, concerns the cadets would be punished, or the belief that nothing would be done.
"These figures only reflect part of the problem, and we really have no idea what the true figures are because they're not reporting it," said former Florida Rep. Tillie Fowler, the panel's chairwoman.
The Justice Department says about one-fourth of assaults are reported nationally.
Fowler's seven-member panel was created by Congress to investigate allegations academy leaders were indifferent to cadets' claims of sexual assault and sometimes punished the purported victims for violating academy rules.
Friday's public meeting was the last before the panel issues its report Sept. 22. Fowler said leaders at Air Force headquarters and the academy should have done more.
"The leadership of the Air Force and at the academy have had knowledge of these problems for a long time, and in our view, not much was done about it," Fowler said.