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Sexual assaults: Air Force Academy rate half of average civilian campus's

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Last week, we shared details about sex-assault accusations against three Air Force Academy cadets -- Stephan Claxton, Kyle Cressy and Robert Evenson -- nine years after a scandal over similar crimes rocked the institution. An AFA rep stresses that the academy takes such incidents very seriously -- but he adds that the rate of sexual assault there is just over half the average at civilian college campuses.

As we reported, charge sheets released by the academy note that Claxton is accused of committing illicit acts in March and November of last year. In the first, he's said to have placed a cadet's hand on his penis while engaging in underage drinking. In the second, he's said to have struck a fellow cadet on the face with his fist, then unbuttoned and unzipped her pants without her consent, as well as forcibly kissed and choked her.

The Cressy incidents date to May 2011. The charges state that he penetrated a female cadet's vagina with his hand or finger, as well as his penis, while she was "substantially incapacitated."

Evenson, for his part, allegedly masturbated over a cadet and ejaculated on her stomach while holding her down sometime during the month of November 2010. Between March and July of that year, he's also suspected of forcing sex "using power or strength or restraint to her person sufficient that she could not avoid or escape the sexual conduct." In addition, in February 2010, the document contends that he helped a cadet in an Honor case "in return for a dating relationship and sexual favors, requiring her to violate her probation in return for helping her, and threatening to harm her military career if she did not comply."

On Friday, following reports about the trio, the Air Force Academy held an informational briefing for members of the media about investigatory and disciplinary procedures collected under the umbrella term Article 32. According to AFA chief of media relations Meade Warthen, one attendee asked how the rate of sexual assaults at the academy compared to those on civilian campuses. To answer that question, sexual assault response coordinator Teresa Beasely turned to a National Institute of Justice study, on view below in its entirety. According to the document, the typical civilian campus experienced 35 rapes per 1,000 students each academic year as of 2000.

In contrast, academy figures show an actual rate, as opposed to an estimate, of nineteen sexual assaults per 1,000 students -- just over 54 percent of the civilian figure.

Warthen stresses that these numbers were crunched in order to answer a question posed in the briefing, not to "point fingers at civilian campuses or say we're better than anybody else. And we also don't want to make excuses. There's no excuse for sexual assaults or anything related to them occurring at the Air Force Academy."

The reason for releasing the information, then, is "because we just want to get the facts out," he continues. "We want people to know that we have some very concrete programs in place. The cadets get a lot of training on sexual assault prevention, sexual assault response, bystander response, where, if you see something you didn't think is correct behavior, you're encouraged to intervene. And there's also training about people who feel they've been sexually abused, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed -- reporting avenues where they can address their concerns.

"This is something that's continually brought to the attention of cadets," he points out. "I don't know how much of that is the case on civilian campuses, so that may be one reason why the rate is lower with cadets."

Not that it's low enough. "If there's one sexual assault, that's one too many," Warthen says. "We're doing everything we can to turn it into a zero-sum figure. So we don't want to give the impression that we're okay."

Look below to read the report from which the estimate for sexual assaults on civilian campuses was derived.

The Sexual Victimization of College Women

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Read more on the subject of sexual assaults at the AFA in our "Inside the Air Force Academy" archive.

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