Air Force Academy in compliance with DOD sexual harassment, assault policy
by Don Dranum
Academy Spirit staff writer
1/17/2014 – U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY. Colo. — The Air Force Academy is in compliance with Defense Department policies on preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault, according to an annual report released Jan. 10 by the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.
The report, which reviews the climate at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy, praised the Academy for its continued focus on leadership development and adherence to standard as well as implementation of Special Victims’ Council attorneys.
The report includes statistical information on 45 sexual reports that were reported during the 2012-2013 academic year. It notes that the reporting rate is substantially higher at the Air Force Academy than the other military service academies and attributes the higher rate to “a moderately greater level of confidence in the USAFA response system.
“We remain encouraged by the reporting numbers because we believe it reflects victim confidence in our program,” said Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson. “However, our ultimate goal is zero incidents. Prevention and victim care are the cornerstones of our program, and maintaining a climate of dignity and respect across the institution is central to eliminating sexual assault.”
The 45 reports include 27 restricted reports, which protect the victim’s identity while making victim treatment services available, and 18 unrestricted reports, which allow military law enforcement agencies to pursue criminal charges against perpetrators. Unrestricted reports in the 2012-2013 academic year led to three court-martial convictions and six disenrollments.
The presence of alcohol as a factor in reported sexual assaults declined slightly, from 44 percent of reports in 2011-2012 to 42 percent of reports in 2012-2013.
One challenge the Academy must address is cadets’ misconceptions that women report sexual assault to “get out of trouble,” according to the report.
“We realize there is more work to be done,” Johnson said. “The Air Force’s Academy will use feedback from this report to refine and strengthen a culture of commitment and a climate of respect for everyone in the USAFA family.”
The Academy plans to implement a cadet bystander intervention training program in the 2013-2014 academic year and plans to recruit Athletic Department staff, coaches and athletes as early adapters, according to the report.
The Academy’s SAPR office and the Behavioral Science and Leadership Department received a Mellon Foundation grant to support collaboration among cadets and Colorado College students to promote prevention and awareness programs, according to the report.
Two additional victim advocates were hired, and four volunteer victim advocates joined to augment the Academy’s SAPR program, improving its ability to provide 24-hour support for victims of sexual assault. The SAPR office is working with 10th Air Base Wing officials to bolster services for Academy Airmen and their families.
In addition, Johnson said the Academy is realigning its leadership team to create a single focal point to streamline culture and climate reporting, document and take advantage of efforts to encourage diversity and help institutionalize a strengthened culture of respect. The new position will also establish and lead a representative, cross-functional diversity council, which will let leaders turn challenges into opportunities.
“Creating a coordinating director for all culture, climate and diversity efforts in the form of a strategic leader who reports directly to the superintendent will ensure that issues are communicated and positively addressed at our Academy’s highest levels,” Johnson said.