Legal Eagles

A year later, these female cadets are still waiting for an apology. A lawsuit may be their only hope.

Fowler's group singled out Dallager, former training group commander Colonel Laurie Sue Slavec, current dean of faculty Brigadier General David Wagie and former commandant of cadets Brigadier General Taco Gilbert, who initially came under scrutiny because his comments to Westword about a former cadet epitomized the blame-the-victim mentality at the academy. The panel members argued that "every effort must be made to formally document" the failure of recent and past academy leaders and requested that the Inspector General for the Department of Defense investigate those leaders. The Defense report should be released by March.

So far, the academy has implemented all but one of the panel's 21 recommendations, which called for everything from more oversight by the supervisory Academy Board of Visitors to an extension of tenure for the upper leaders. But the panel also recommended confidentiality for victims, who now are obligated to divulge their names to an academy response team that handles reports of sexual assault, oversees investigations and provides medical care and counseling. "We're struggling with our confidentiality policy, and we expect a decision here in the next few weeks," Rosa says. "I believe we've got to give young people trust and confidence in the leadership and in a system that says they're not going to be revictimized, they're not going to be blamed, they're not going to be ostracized for a crime that's been committed against them."

Rosa is struggling with the academy's admissions policy, too. At an October press conference, he said he wanted to question potential cadets about their views toward women. That topic will be discussed in February, when deans, commandants, athletic directors and admissions officials from all three service academies meet in Colorado Springs for their annual superintendents' conference, which was canceled last year due to the scandal. "If this crisis has done one thing between our academies, it's brought us closer together, and it's got us talking much more and sharing information. We're going to talk about admissions and brainstorm how we can make sure we're getting the right young person here," Rosa says.

Aim high: Former Air Force Academy cadet and 
whistleblower Jessica Brakey.
John Johnston
Aim high: Former Air Force Academy cadet and whistleblower Jessica Brakey.

Soon he will talk about the academy's new amnesty policy, as well. Although the academy already had a policy stating that "cadet victims will generally not be disciplined for self-identified violations of cadet instructions (such as pass violations, unauthorized alcohol consumption, or unauthorized dating) which may have occurred in connection with an assault," it wasn't always followed. So the Agenda for Change called for full amnesty for all victims. The change was seen by victims and victim advocates as a step in the right direction but was criticized by others for its potential for abuse. Although Rosa hasn't seen any instances of cadets crying rape to avoid punishment for other infractions -- amnesty has been requested only a couple of times since April -- he says the academy will reconsider the policy in March, on the first anniversary of the Agenda for Change. By then, Rosa says, "We'll have our confidentiality policy straight and see how amnesty dovetails with confidentiality."

Both Rosa and Weida are hopeful that the Air Force Academy will be better off for having gone through all the changes and that it will produce better officers as a result. "Through this crisis is going to be born an institution of excellence that I predict, six months from now, a year from now, two years from now, America is going to look to and go, 'Wow, how did you do that? How did you go from crisis to that level of excellence?'" says Weida. "We will look back on this time still as a bad time, but it will be a birth, a beginning of something we can all be proud of."

Jessica Brakey isn't holding her breath. She'd like there to be more civilian oversight at the academy. "It's been proven that when it comes to sexual assault, the academy can't be trusted to regulate itself," she says. "It's easy for new leaders to come in and change things when everyone's looking. But when no one's looking anymore, will they still be concerned about sexual assault?"

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