4 staffers at AFA ordered off jobs
The suspensions are in the sexual assault prevention office.
SPRINGS» Four COLORADO workers at the Air Force Academy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office have been suspended amid a month-long investigation that leaders of the school won’t discuss.
Academy spokesman Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said undisclosed “issues” triggered a probe ordered by academy leaders. The investigation involves an academy office that school Superintendent Lt. Gen Michelle Johnson and others have held up as a national example for how colleges can care for sexual assault victims while educating students through prevention programs.
“That investigation lasted over a month and involved dozens of interviews,” Herritage said in an email. “At this time, due to the fact that review of the investigation and related processes are still ongoing, as well as privacy concerns of those involved, we cannot discuss details or findings of the investigation.”
A source familiar with details of the investigation but not authorized to speak to the media told The Gazette that four full-time staff members of the six-person office were suspended. The source said Johnson told academy leaders she had “lost faith” in the office’s ability to care for victims. Herritage confirmed that an undisclosed number of staff members “are no longer performing” sexual assault prevention and response work. The colonel said he couldn’t say how many, because disclosing the number of staffers relieved of their duties could reveal identities.
The office, created after a 2003 sexual assault scandal rocked the school, offers counseling and advocacy for sexual assault victims.
A Pentagon report released in March showed that Air Force topped its sister schools in the number of reports of sexual assault from cadets, with 32 in the academic year that ended June 2016, down from 49 a year earlier. Army had 26 reports, up from 17 a year earlier, and Navy had 28 reports, up from 25 the previous year.
In the same report, the Air Force Academy’s female cadets reported an increase in the prevalence of “unwanted sexual contact” last year, with 11.2 percent of them reporting unsolicited touching, up from 9.7 percent.
Johnson and other academy leaders have said the willingness of cadets to report sexual assault and harassment shows they have confidence in the system.
Herritage said the academy has adequate resources to care for sex assault victims.
The source familiar with the investigation said volunteer victim advocates, who undergo 40 hours of training for the role, are temporarily filling in.
The suspensions come at a key time for the office, which will soon kick off its annual training of freshman cadets. The class of 2021 arrived at the academy for basic training Thursday, and sexual assault prevention courses for those cadets normally start within their first week at the school.
Under Johnson’s fouryear tenure, the general has repeatedly said the academy’s sexual assault prevention and response efforts set a national example.
Johnson is set to retire in August, likely leaving a final decision on the suspended workers to her replacement, Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria.