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More Cadets Speaking Out About Assaults

March 8, 2003

DENVER (AP) _ Sharon Fullilove says the sexual assault she suffered at the Air Force Academy was so common that former cadets offered a grim warning to her and others at the school.

``During sexual assault awareness week, people told us that if you make it through all four years without being sexually assaulted, you’re lucky,″ Fullilove said. ``They also say if you want to have an Air Force career you should not report it.″

At first, Fullilove didn’t report the alleged assault for fear that doing so would ruin her military career.

``I really want to fly jets, and I had never quit anything in my life. I wanted to stay there,″ said the 21-year-old, whose mother is an Air Force colonel at the academy hospital. ``I thought if I got through it and moved on, I’d be fine.″

The Air Force has identified at least 54 allegations of rape or sexual assault at the academy outside Colorado Springs over the past 10 years, and officials say there are probably many more cadets who have not come forward.

At the academy Friday, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper said he wants to root out any sexual predators still at the academy or in the Air Force.

He said the academy must ensure that conditions in its dormitories are ``not conducive for would-be predators to be around females at the wrong time and in the wrong setting″ when more than 200 female cadets arrive in 90 days.

Many cadets who made the reports say they were ostracized or reprimanded for infractions such as drinking alcohol or having sex in dorms.

Air Force officials and lawmakers say the crisis is as serious as the 1991 Tailhook scandal, when women were groped or assaulted by drunken pilots at a Navy booster group’s convention at a hotel. The Air Force is investigating, and at least four U.S. senators have called for an outside inquiry.

Fullilove was a freshman in November 1999 when, she said, an upperclassmen offered her a ride to her dorm from a campus lounge after dark.

She said he stopped the truck, locked the doors and raped her. When he released her, she said she ran to her room and showered, and then shut herself in. When he stopped by her room two days later, she said she decided she could not stay at the academy and went home.

``People have to understand, this is nothing like a normal college,″ she said. ``Upperclassmen are your superiors. You have to listen to them and obey their rules. You can’t tell them to get out. I didn’t feel safe.″

A few months later, at her parents’ coaxing, she reported the assault. ``I was afraid that this would happen to someone else,″ she said.

The case was closed with no arrests or punishment. Fullilove, who is now a biology major at the University of Arizona, said the man who raped her graduated and is in the Air Force.

Her mother, Air Force Lt. Col. Michaela Shafer, said investigators treated the family poorly.

``They told me my daughter was a liar,″ she said. ``They looked me in the face, a fellow officer, a superior, and told me my daughter, who had been raped, was a liar.″

In the past 10 years, two Air Force cadets have been charged with rape, according to Air Force Secretary James Roche. One was acquitted, and another pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven months in jail. Administrative action was taken in other cases because there was not enough evidence to prosecute, he said.

Kate Summers, spokeswoman for the nonprofit Miles Foundation, which helps victims of military violence, said most military sexual assault cases involve a subordinate female victim.

``You can’t make a blanket statement that men in the military are prone to violence, that’s just not true,″ she said. ``But there is a certain type of conditioning in the military as it relates to force. The training at the academies is the use of control and use of power, they’re being trained to command. And some take it too far.″

Former cadet Jessica Brakey said she was raped three years ago as a sophomore.

``I didn’t tell anyone because I kept thinking that since he didn’t beat me or kill me I was fine, and maybe it was partially my fault,″ she said.

She said her behavior grew erratic, her grades suffered and she started having nightmares.

Last November she reported her case to officials, who told her she was being investigated for mental health problems. No charges were filed, and Brakey was dismissed for health reasons.

If she’s unable to return to the academy, she plans to attend community college.

``I still want to finish,″ the 23-year-old said. ``I’ve been working for this forever.″

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On the Net:

Academy: http://www.usafa.af.mil

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