Zero Tolerance For Sexual Assault

    Feb. 20, 2003

    Superintendent demands "zero tolerance for sexual assault"

    Members of the USAF Academy Community-as you're well aware, we've recently received a significant amount of feedback from a variety of sources, including the media and Congress, concerning sexual assaults at the Academy. As a commander and as the parent of both a college freshman son and a daughter serving in the Air Force, I want to assure you this issue has my personal attention. It also has the highest interest of Secretary Roche, General Jumper, and the Air Force's senior leadership.

    In the Air Force at large and at the Academy, there is zero tolerance for sexual assault-any and all perpetrators will be brought to justice and disciplined appropriately. Such reprehensible action is utterly inconsistent with our commitment to train and equip a world-class officer corps that is the pride of our nation. USAFA's Cadet Victim/Witness and Assistance Program includes components for sexual assault prevention, awareness training, medical care, counseling services, legal consultation, victim advocacy, spiritual consultation, and investigation. The program's emphasis is on educating cadets and supporting the victims of sexual assault to facilitate their recovery, increase reporting, and create opportunities for investigation, prosecution, and conviction. Regrettably, our on-going efforts have not yet succeeded in creating an environment where our cadets are free from the threat of sexual assault, but that is our ultimate goal.

    Over the past few months, we've taken multiple and simultaneous actions to address the sexual assault issue. Several weeks ago, when cadet feedback first brought this to his attention, Secretary Roche tasked the Air Force General Counsel to lead a senior-level working group to review issues with regard to sexual assault at the Academy and from all accession sources and to recommend measures to ensure Air Force policies, practices, procedures, training and education, and all other aspects of this complicated issue are consistent with justice, Air Force values, zero tolerance for sexual assault, and our goals in recruiting, training and retaining the airmen of tomorrow. The working group has already begun its work to identify improvements for immediate implementation, and to set in motion a process for dealing with the underlying causes of this issue and to evaluate longer-term changes.

    While this oversight effort has just begun, we've taken actions here to increase awareness about sexual assault and safety issues. Additionally, we're seeking ways to improve our current programs, and we're enhancing the level of coordination between the agencies involved in sexual assault cases. In the last few weeks, the USAFA leadership, cadet peer counselors, and I have met in many different forums with assault victims and the entire cadet wing. We've sought their counsel on the efficacy of our programs and solicited their suggestions on how to improve them. We've addressed everything from the climate at USAFA to cadet perceptions. Additionally, we've sought to assure the cadet wing this issue has the attention of Academy and the Air Force and is something that cannot be tolerated or ignored.

    In closing, I encourage you to get educated on this important issue. As an institution, we have much to be proud of, but we're not infallible. We're not going to sweep this under the rug and pretend there's nothing wrong-we're going to do our best to heal the hurts and improve our processes. I welcome your inputs as we proceed, and challenge you to become part of the solution.

    John R. Dallager
    Lieutenant General, USAF

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