Air Force Academy Ignores Rapes, Women Say

A few days later, according to Ruth, some of the school's medical staff met with them and advised them to take birth control pills. The staff didn't directly link the assaults and the recommendation for birth control, but, Ruth said, that was the message she and her classmates got.

Ruth shrugged off the advice, but during her freshman year, it happened to her. She said she was raped by a class leader when she went to his room to watch a movie. He offered her an alcoholic drink, and soon, she says, the room was spinning. Later, she was feeling internal pain. She went to a doctor, who, she says, confirmed she had been raped.

Ruth didn't report the incident. She said she felt she was in a place "where the rules are different."

Beth, another cadet, had a similar story. She said an upperclassman essentially blackmailed her into seeing him — threatening to report her and her squadron mates for alcohol use if she didn't. So she agreed to meet the upperclassman one night outside the dorm. Beth said he shoved her to the ground, forced her head into his waist "and pretty much made me do things that I didn't want to do. And then left me there."

Beth also kept quiet about the assault. What's more, she said she agreed to see him over and over again, feeling powerless to refuse an upperclassman.

Zero Tolerance — for the Victim?

It was a year before Beth spoke about the incident to her parents back home in Maryland. They encouraged her to report it, and she did.

Beth reported the crime to the Office of Special Investigations. She said the commander listening to her story was supportive, becoming upset, even crying as he listened. Beth said, "He started calling him [the upperclassman] an S.O.B. And he was like, if I do anything in my career, I'm going to bring this case down. And he said it's going to court, I can guarantee you."

The case never went to court. And, incredibly, the academy punished Beth, giving her a "hit," or a reprimand, for having sex in the dorm.

Another female cadet who reported an assault suffered a similar punishment. Marie, who asked that her last name be withheld, said she received "hits" for alcohol, fraternization and for sexual activity. "The hit for sexual activity is ridiculous," she said, "when you're reporting a rape."

Gen. John Dallager, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, told ABCNEWS' Lynn Sherr that the academy's policy encourages victims to report rape and sexual assaults on a cadet-run hotline called CASIE.

Since 1996, there have been 99 reports of sexual assaults or rapes through the CASIE hot line. There have been 20 investigations of sex crimes by the Office of Special Investigations. Only one case went to a court-martial, and that case ended in acquittal.

The academy's actions in Marie's case so outraged her advocate, a man who worked at the cadet-run rape hotline, that he resigned in protest.

Another cadet who reported a rape to the Office of Special Investigations, Lyn, told Sherr the officer who heard her report scolded her. "He just berated me and basically told me I was a promiscuous slut."

"The Air Force Academy claims to have a zero-toleration policy. But it's really zero tolerance for victims," Lyn told Sherr.

Investigations Under Way

Dallager told Sherr he believes the reports he's hearing about the women's allegations, but, he says he's not sure that there's much the Air Force can do for them at this point.

"I'm not sure we can adequately apologize to them, and I would say, we will never make it right for them. Hopefully, the public approach that we're taking to this, the senior-level investigation into this will improve it in the future," Dallager told Sherr.

Some action also is being taken outside of the academy. The top general in the Air Force, Gen. John P. Jumper, on Wednesday endorsed Congress' call for an independent inquiry into the allegations.

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