February 17, 2003
DENVER -- The military has ordered a review of how the Air Force Academy handles sexual assault allegations after female cadets said they were reprimanded for reporting they were raped by classmates.
Five women, most of whom have left the academy, were treated as if they were crazy or promiscuous, said Dorothy Mackey, who founded a group that tracks sexual assaults in the military and has talked with cadets.
"They have attempted to talk about it or find some assistance within the system. Instead they have systematically been told to shut up by other cadets or the system itself," said Mackey, a former Air Force captain who says she resigned her commission in 1992 after two other officers harassed her. Her lawsuit against the men was ultimately rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The allegations have drawn media attention and led Sens. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., and John Warner, R-Va., to ask the Pentagon for an investigation.
On Friday, the office of Air Force Secretary James Roche announced that a special review panel had been formed to review sexual assault policies in the military.
The academy commandant, Brig. Gen. Taco Gilbert, defended the school's conduct in a written response to questions about one alleged assault, in which a cadet said she was raped after a night of drinking and a strip poker game.
After a hearing the academy decided not to press charges against her attacker, and the cadet said Gilbert criticized her conduct.
Gilbert said there was "no justification" for the alleged assault, but added, "when you put yourself in situations with increased risk, you have to take increased precautions to mitigate those risks."
Another woman told KMGH-TV of Denver she left the academy after commanders responded to her rape allegation by charging her with violating rules against drinking, fraternization with upperclassmen and having sex in the dormitories.