View Full Version : Ex-Superintendent of Air Force Academy Is Demoted in Wake of Rape Scandal

07-12-03, 03:33 AM
Ex-Superintendent of Air Force Academy Is Demoted in Wake of Rape Scandal

OLORADO SPRINGS, July 11 The former superintendent of the Air Force Academy, Lt. Gen. John Dallager, has been demoted by one star, in the clearest move yet to punish a commanding officer after the sexual assault scandal at the school.

A statement issued on Thursday evening said that Air Force Secretary James Roche stripped General Dallager of one of his three stars, so he will retire on Sept. 1 as a major general. As of now, his salary falls to $123,000 a year from $136,000, and he is to lose $800 a month in pension pay.

The demotion came on the eve of General Dallager's first public testimony since the scandal erupted, after female cadets came forward to say they had been raped at the school and were discouraged from reporting the abuse.

The statement said that General Dallager "did not exercise the degree of leadership in this situation that we expect of our commanders."

General Dallager and three other top officers from the academy were replaced in April. But he had maintained that he was being transferred, not removed.

In testimony today before an independent panel reviewing issues of sexual assault at the academy, General Dallager said that he was "very disappointed" with the demotion, but declined to comment further on it.

He and other former senior commanders defended their performance, saying they had done nothing wrong and were unaware of the degree to which sexual assault was a problem among cadets. They attributed their lack of awareness to a policy of granting confidentiality to victims who seek help, unless the victims decided to seek a criminal investigation. That policy has been rescinded.

The panel was created after dozens of current and former cadets at the Air Force Academy came forward this year to say they had been raped by male cadets, and felt they had been scorned when they tried to seek help from their superiors. Routinely, they said, cadets who raped them avoided court martial, while the victims faced punishment for relatively minor infractions.

Many young women lost their careers in the Air Force. They were shunned by fellow cadets, they said, and blamed by the former leadership for lying or allowing themselves to be raped.

In his testimony today, Brig. General S. Taco Gilbert III, the former commandant of cadets, denied that he had ignored sexual assault cases or blamed the victims.

"I view every assault case as if it were my own child," General Gilbert said. "I never, never blamed the victim. I never punished the victim."

He said that during his tenure, no suspected rapists avoided court martial or were permitted to resign in lieu of court martial.

General Dallager said that he and other leaders at the academy were unaware that a crisis was brewing. Though the academy had commissioned annual climate surveys that gauged incidents and attitudes toward sexual assault, those never reached General Dallager. Rather, the academy had created a cadet-run victim services hot line, which he said was seen as a model for other academies to follow.

"Perhaps we had a false sense of well-being," he said today. "We had folks coming to us, modeling their programs after us."

The Air Force statement said that General Dallager had not addressed the difficulties women faced in reporting sexual assault seriously enough. The statement said that he ought to have heeded the "indicators of problems and he should have aggressively pursued solutions to them."

The issue of confidentiality emerged today as a main focus of the review panel, which is led by former Congresswoman Tillie Fowler, Republican of Florida. The panel spent Thursday in closed meetings with the former leaders of the academy and in interviews with as many as a dozen current and former cadets who said they had been raped there. Their questions today reflected the new information they had gained about the difficulties cadets faced in trying to report rape.

"It's very apparent to us that the system at the Air Force Academy has utterly failed the majority of victims," Col. John W. Ripley, who is retired from the Marines, said. Singly and as a group, he added, victims were "scared to death to come forward."

The Air Force maintains that thorough investigations and prosecution are the only way that cadets will realize that rape is not an infraction, but a crime.

But advocates and victims contend that forcing women to confront the prospect of an investigation in the immediate aftermath of a rape or remain silent in the closed environment of the academy would deepen the pain for victims.

"Forcing someone to prematurely voice the unspeakable, from a human standpoint, is cruel," Janet Kerr, former director of the local sexual assault crisis center, told the panel.

There was also the matter of trust, victims said. "It was my own chain of command that was persecuting me, so why would I report a rape to my chain of command?" said Kira Mountjoy-Pepka, a former cadet who said she was raped by another cadet. He is now in jail after convictions for other crimes.

Ms. Fowler and other panelists also suggested that ordering women to come forward, given the academy's poor track record, would camouflage rather than fix the problem.

"I'm concerned that next April, May, you'll say the numbers" of rapes at the academy "went down, and what's really happened is they went underground," Ms. Fowler told the academy's new commanders, who also testified before the panel today. The new superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Rosa, was sworn in on Wednesday.

Former cadets who reported that they had been raped and who attended today's hearing disputed the former commanders' remarks, and said that they had tried to discuss their cases with the officers' former leaders.

"We were beating down their doors, trying to get meetings with them," said Sharon Fullilove, a former cadet, who said she was raped by a fellow cadet. "They didn't want to hear about it."

Jessica Brakey, a victim and former cadet, said: "My rapist is flying planes. I'll never get to."