Jan 10, 2014 11:47 PM by Maddie Garrett

AFA Responds to Sex Assault Report, Says Changing its Culture

The Air Force Academy is the target of unwanted attention after a report Friday on sexual assaults. There were 45 reported cases at the Academy last year, down from 52 the year before. The AFA tells News 5, it's committed to changing the culture and helping victims.

Of all three military academies, the Army's Westpoint, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy, the AFA here in Colorado Springs accounted for almost two-thirds of sexual assaults reported last year, with a total of 71 across the academies. The Naval Academy was the only one to have its number of sexual assaults rise though.

"Any sexual assault is bad and we would like to stop them all, but if they're going to happen then we do want to hear about them, get them reported so we can use that information," said Col. Stella Reni Renner.

Col. Renner is Vice Commandant of Cadet Culture and Climate at the Academy. She said she believes the AFA had the most reports of the academies because the AFA's programs are working to get victims to come forward.

"That's something we've really pushed in the last few years, is to try to get our reporting up," explained Col. Renner.

It's estimated that about 25% to 28% of sexual assaults committed in 2012, were actually reported at the Academy. Compare that to statistics from the overall military, when only about 11% to 13% of victims came forward in 2012.

"We continue to take that as a positive sign that our cadets trust our system to bring their reports forward," said Col. Renner.

But that means almost 75&+% of sex assault victims stayed silent at the AFA. Col. Renner said to combat the problem, they start early with education and training about sex assault.

"We start really that very first day with providing them definitions, what's allowed, what's not allowed, what's tolerated, what's not tolerated. And most importantly," she added. "We tell them who they can talk to in their units, a safe person for them to go talk to."

She said the Academy is doing more to help victims through their victim advocacy program. Unlike in the past, victims are now provided with legal representation, counseling, and even an opportunity to leave the Academy for a semester or a year to seek help or escape a detrimental situation. That time is called a Turn Back, and after that the Cadet can return to the Academy to continue their training and education.

Col. Renner said the Academy hopes their training will help change the culture of abuse in the Air Force as a whole. After all, these cadets are the future of the Air Force.

"We have to find that developmental opportunity to help give them the skills that they're going to need so that they can take that into their leadership positions as they move off into the Air Force," said Col. Renner. "And we want them to be a force for good as they do that and not part of the problem that's out there."



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