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Air force academy sexual assaults { September 9 2003 }

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Academy sexual assault review expands to preparatory school

By Robert Gehrke
6:25 p.m. September 9, 2003

WASHINGTON A review of sexual assault problems at the Air Force Academy is expanding to include a preparatory school on the academy grounds, the academy superintendent said Tuesday.

It's the first time Air Force brass have scrutinized the prep school, which offers a rigorous 10-month academic course to help students who don't meet standards qualify for admission to the academy.

"Right now I'm assessing the prep school. I'm determining what kind of a scrub we're going to do," academy superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa Jr. said in an interview. "We'll take a good hard look and make sure we're in line and in sync at our prep school, and we're starting that way."

The academy came under congressional and military scrutiny after dozens of female cadets said they were punished or ostracized after reporting sexual assaults. Top academy commanders were replaced and Air Force Secretary James Roche ordered sweeping changes.

None of the reforms applied to the prep school. In June, an Air Force working group recommended the school also be examined.

Rosa said he didn't know if the school has any of the problems the academy has. Last week, prep school students took part in a survey designed to assess the climate there, the same survey given to academy cadets a week earlier.

"Well learn about the climate, what's going right, where we need to improve and what we need to do and areas we need to focus on," Rosa said.

A congressionally mandated panel examining the academy received a letter from an academy graduate alleging she was raped by male cadets at the academy in retaliation for reporting that she was sexually assaulted at the prep school.

She did not report the second attack and her attackers were commissioned as officers, panel member Laura Miller said.

The case corresponds with an incident mentioned in a 2000 inspector general report that says the victim suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder and graduated from the academy but did not become an officer.

According to documents obtained Tuesday from the Air Force, there was just one assault reported at the preparatory school over the last decade, in late 1993. The case was investigated and the suspect, a first-year cadet, was expelled.

Although the case is nearly a decade old, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Michael L. Dominguez said the military would not hesitate to prosecute if there is a way to do so.

"We treat seriously all of these allegations, and if we can take them to prosecution, we will do so," he said.

Rosa's comments came after a two-hour closed-door meeting at the Pentagon with top Air Force officials convened by Roche to monitor reforms at the academy.

The panel, called the Executive Steering Group, is expected to meet every three months for progress reports.

Rosa told the panel that all but 27 of the 165 changes ordered by Roche and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper are in place and more are expected by the end of the week, including a formal policy on alcohol use and a policy guaranteeing that cadets who report a sexual assault won't be punished for rules violations associated with the incident.

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