View Full Version : Air Force Missed Sex Abuse Warning - Psychiatrist

10-14-03, 03:51 AM
Mon Oct 13, 7:11 PM ET

By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force psychiatrist who first raised alarm bells about sexual misconduct at the Air Force Academy said senior Air Force officials had failed to act on recommendations she made seven years ago to improve the treatment of women at the college.

Col. Molly Hall, now a professor at the Uniform Services University Medical School in Bethesda, Maryland, said she had briefed the then Air Force chief of staff in June 1996, but his successor and the Air Force secretary said they knew nothing about the sexual abuse problems until last January.

Hall is convinced top Air Force leaders missed a critical opportunity to begin changing a culture that promoted silence, increased fear of reprisals and discouraged victims from seeking help.

"I don't feel that there's any one person or leader who failed," Hall told Reuters in a telephone interview. "I do think there needed to be a much larger thrust at the academy to fix it, and that could only have come from Washington."

"There was an opportunity to do something that was missed," said Hall, who had recommended an integrated team of experts draft comprehensive steps to change the academy's culture with regard to women, who were first admitted 27 years ago.

She based her recommendation on a similar group convened in 1996 to prevent Air Force suicides, which has helped drive suicide rates in the service to record lows.

Hall said she felt sad about recent surveys that showed little had changed at the elite 4,000-student school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the past seven years.

An independent panel appointed by Congress and headed by former Republican Rep. Tillie Fowler of Florida last month reported that top Air Force officials were aware of the sexual misconduct and allowed it to continue for years.

The report cited 142 allegations of sexual assaults against women at the academy over the past 10 years, and said little had been done to stop them or punish the guilty.


The Pentagon Inspector General this summer reported that 398 of the 660 women at the academy said they had been sexually harassed in one way or another.

An August survey by the academy found that 22 percent of male cadets believed women did not belong at the academy.

Hall said she briefed Gen. Ronald Fogleman, then Air Force chief of staff, about her conclusions and recommendations in June 1996 and he appeared "gravely serious" at the meeting.

Fogleman, now retired from the Air Force, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

He told the Denver Post last month that top generals took measure to prevent sexual assaults.

"This was an issue that was known and being worked on at the Air Force, and at the academy," he told the Post. "If we didn't take the right remedial action, that was our fault, but it wasn't for a lack of trying or being engaged on the subject."

Senate aides last week said additional hearings could be held on the academy, with senators concerned by reports that 16 people accused of rapes or assaults from 1993 to 2002 are still on active military duty.

Air Force Secretary James Roche and Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper have said they were completely unaware of sexual problems at the academy until January, when the matter first resurfaced in the media.

It is unclear why they did not see Hall's 1996 memo outlining serious problems at the academy until August, although it was apparently included in a 2000 report from the Air Force inspector general to the Senate.

That report concluded Lt. Gen. John Hopper, then commandant of the academy, did not actively conceal or discourage proper investigation of alleged cases of sexual misconduct. It did not address the wider problem at the academy.