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2003-03-07

Air Force Admits at Least 54 Cases of Rape and Sexual Assault at Air Force Academy–Scandal Called Bigger Than Tailhook: We’ll Talk to Two Survivors

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Air Force Secretary James Roche testified before the Senate Armed Service Committee yesterday that the Air Force has found at least 54 cases where women have been raped or sexually assaulted at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Republican Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado said the situation is worse than the 1991 Tailhook scandal in which more than 80 women said they were assaulted by drunken pilots at a convention.

The story broke when the Denver newspaper Westword and Denver’s KMGH-TV and reported the experiences of several female cadets who said they were disciplined or "hounded out" of the academy after reporting sexual assaults by male cadets.

The initial trickle of allegations has turned into a flood. A spokesman for Allard said the senator had received 25 as of yesterday. One former cadet said the atmosphere is so bad, "they need to prepare freshman female cadets for being raped, if not physically, then mentally."

Since 1996, nearly 100 women have reported sexual assaults on a confidential campus hot line. The school investigated just 20 of the cases. But to date the most serious punishment any male cadet received was dismissal.

Republican Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado, has accused the academy’s top commanders of mishandling the rape allegations and said they should be removed. But a spokesman for Roche issued a statement refusing to blame anyone but the "climate at the academy that has evolved over time."

Today we are going to talk to a woman who was sexually assaulted as a student and as a faculty member at the Air Force Academy, and the founder of the advocacy group Survivors Take Action Against Abuse by Military Personnel.

But we start with the reporter who broke the story.

  • Julie Jargon, staff reporter with the WestWord, a weekly newspaper in Denver. She wrote the 10,000 word piece "The War Within: As America prepares to invade Iraq, female Air Force cadets wage their own battle" that first brought attention to the situation.
  • Dorothy Mackey, founder of Survivors Take Action Against Abuse by Military Personnel. She is a nine-year career Air Force officer, during which time she was subjected to a year of physical, sexual and emotional assaults by 2 senior officers from the Inspector General’s office.
  • Major Susan Archibald, former Air Force Academy cadet and faculty member.

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