Thursday, July 20, 2017

UPDATE: Air Force Academy sexual assault report draws little interest from Congress members

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 12:56 PM

click to enlarge The Academy's Honor Code appears over the terrazzo. - COURTESY USAFA
  • Courtesy USAFA
  • The Academy's Honor Code appears over the terrazzo.
Rep. Jared Polis has weighed in on the issues at the Air Force Academy described in stories published July 19 by the Independent.

He didn't reach us sooner, because he was on his way home to Colorado and was out of contact.

But here's what he says: “The accusations described by the Colorado Independent are disturbing. We can all agree that victims need and deserve a safe way to report their assault, free from penalty. I urge the Academy to fully investigate these accusations.”

Polis also notes he regularly sends a staffer to the Board of Visitors meetings when he's unable to attend himself.

———ORIGINAL POST 12:56 P.M. THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2017————————

On Wednesday, July 19, the Independent published several stories about the Air Force Academy's treatment of cadets who report they've been sexually assaulted. ("The blame game," Cover story.)

Several cadets told us they were assigned a mental diagnosis of which they initially weren't aware that could have far reaching impact on their lives and futures.

From the story:
Now, current and former cadets who say they were victims of sexual assault claim the Academy uses mental health counselors — the very people assigned to help them — to add diagnoses to their record in a way that could damage their prospects permanently. Once victims are labeled with a serious mental illness, they can be expelled and even forced to reimburse the Academy for their education....

How far-reaching such tactics are is unclear, but an Academy sexual assault response coordinator, speaking publicly about the inner workings of the Academy's methods for the first time, says it's common practice for alleged victims to be unfairly tagged with mental disorders and pushed out.
We asked Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and Reps. Jared Polis and Doug Lamborn to comment on the stories, but some didn't even acknowledge our phone calls and emails on the subject.

The only one who responded, Bennet, isn't even a current member of the Academy's Board of Visitors, while the others are currently serving.

Through a spokesperson, Bennet said simply, "We urge the leadership at the USAFA to complete their investigation and take steps to ensure that cadets and academy personnel feel confident in reporting instances of sexual assault.”

Lamborn's spokesman said: "The Congressman will not be weighing-in at this time."

The other two said nothing.

It's worth noting that Lamborn has been the most faithful attendee at BOV meetings. According to minutes of nine meetings held between January 2014 and April 2017 made available by the Academy, Lamborn missed only two. Polis, who's running for the Democratic nomination in the Colorado governor's race, missed five of those meetings, and Gardner has attended two of four meetings since joining the board in 2016.

If we hear from any of the others, we'll circle back with an update.

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