ONTD Political

Air Force trainers had improper relationships with dozens of students, report finds

7:12 pm - 11/14/2012

An investigation into misconduct by Air Force trainers at a Texas base found that at least 48 female students were victims of sexual assault or other transgressions by their instructors, according to a report released Wednesday that dissected the culture that enabled the worst military sex-abuse scandal in recent history.

The investigation, sparked by a rape allegation at Lackland Air Force Base in June 2011, has ensnared 23 trainers who were found to have engaged in inappropriate behavior ranging from sexual assault to online flirtation with students between October 2010 and June 2011.

The Air Force report said that at least 13 trainees were victims of sexual assault during that period, including six who were abused by the same instructor. Instructors had inappropriate relationships with 26 trainees that involved some form of physical intimacy, and they engaged in improper relationships with nine students that did not include physical contact, according to the probe.

The report said that sexual misconduct at the San Antonio base, where roughly 500 trainers teach about 35,000 cadets each year, is “as abhorrent as it is rare” but noted that the scope of the problem has nonetheless become of great concern to senior leaders.

“It tears the fabric that holds us together as an Air Force because it destroys our trust, faith and confidence in each other,” the report said.

The Air Force launched the investigation under pressure from lawmakers and advocates for female service members, who contend that the service’s training program allowed instructors to abuse students with impunity.

“There’s something insidious and disturbing about what happened at Lackland,” said Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine captain who is now the executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network. “It’s evidence of widespread assault and widespread misconduct.”

Five instructors at the base have been court-martialed. The rest are awaiting trial or remain under investigation, according to the report.

The Air Force’s review, conducted by Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, found that some past instances of misconduct were not dealt with sternly, creating a sense of impunity.

“These situations contributed to the perception that unprofessional behavior would be tolerated by at least some in authority,” the report said.

Trainers who suspected that their colleagues had acted inappropriately and trainees who witnessed abuse often chose to remain silent, fearing retaliation or that their allegations would not be taken seriously, the report found.

Gen. Edward Rice, the commander of the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, said Wednesday that the investigation and its recommendations to implement stronger safeguards against abuse are not the end of the service’s efforts.

“This is an ongoing process,” he told reporters at an afternoon news conference at the Pentagon. “The cultural piece is one we need to continue to understand better.”

missjersey 15th-Nov-2012 04:06 am (UTC)
Disgusting. I know a vet from the Air Force and just... I hope they find out who it is and they get brought down.
seasontoseason 15th-Nov-2012 04:19 am (UTC)
so not surprised.
rainbow_fish 15th-Nov-2012 04:27 am (UTC)
Every time I think about joining the military (I'd have a nice science job and go in as an officer), I remember that the military is so fucked up and unaccountable and has disgusting attitudes towards women and LGBTQ individuals.

We need to start holding these assholes accountable. Fucking disgusting.
autumnleaving 15th-Nov-2012 05:22 am (UTC)
Yeah, joining the military or any of the other branches of the Armed Forces have really nice incentives (helloooo, student loan aid & nice jobs available), but the continuing presence of harassment and misogyny always bursts that bubble.
shoujokakumei 15th-Nov-2012 01:27 pm (UTC)
Exactly. When I was younger, going into the military after college to work in a tech job was on my list of possibilities. I threw that out after hearing about all the rape scandals and sexual abuse.
maynardsong 15th-Nov-2012 02:06 pm (UTC)
Most colleges are horrible about sexual assault to. I doubt anyone would argue against going to college. I get your sentiment and agree with what you're getting at, but this is still worth pointing out too.
pamelalillian 15th-Nov-2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
yep i wanted to as a child and my dad (a veteran) was like hell no. my parents were really pissed when i joined jrotc but in the end, they got their way.
ahria 15th-Nov-2012 04:36 am (UTC)
My husband is active duty AF. There's been a lot of talk lately (within the AF) about making it so only female instructers can be in charge of women traniees because of shit like this. Unfortunately, due to the small number of women actually in the AF, they'd have to turn away female applicants because they wouldn't have enough women to be in charge of the trainees. I think maybe they should just try harder not to ignore rape. Because you seriously can't tell me this all "just came out".

(I'm sure I've explained this poorly, sorry, I'm super tired)
rainbow_fish 15th-Nov-2012 04:51 am (UTC)
I think both of those are good ideas (#1- Women in charge of women and #2- Don't ignore or tolerate sexual assault).

I mean, I obviously can't speak for other women, but I wonder how many women are kept out of the service because of fear of shit like this.
ahria 15th-Nov-2012 01:45 pm (UTC)
I think it's a good idea but it would hard to implement since there isn't enough women to be instructers. So women applying to join the military could be told "sorry, you can't join right now". And that sucks too.

I've wondered that too. :/
shadwrayvn 15th-Nov-2012 04:56 am (UTC)
God I live in San Antonio & this has been the news almost everyday since it broke. Its just terrible.
xbriyeon 15th-Nov-2012 06:23 am (UTC)
horrifying.. but sadly not surprised at this abuse of power. =\
starzangelus 15th-Nov-2012 05:40 pm (UTC)
I hate that they use the words "improper relationship" for something like sexual assault. It implies that there was some sort of consent and just... ugh. IDK, IDK.
maynardsong 15th-Nov-2012 06:03 pm (UTC)
britneyspears 15th-Nov-2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
i t a
fluteaphrael 15th-Nov-2012 07:37 pm (UTC)
The problem is that in some cases (not here but) there could have been consent but it would still be disallowed in the military because look even if the person WANTS to you can't DO that with trainees.

The issue here is that most of this was NOT with any kind of genuine un-coerced consent or completely without consent at all even some kind of faux "they didn't say no" (even if they were scared to.) The UCMJ language however lumps ALL of that under "improper" because it gives them MORE leeway to actually prosecute people. Because even if the perpetrator claims consent, they've STILL done something against the UCMJ.

The language sounds weak and wishywashy but it actually gives prosecutors more ability to work with. Even if they're crap about doing anything and they try to sweep it under the rug.

I think one of the MOST heinous crimes here is the ones who didn't step on this when the first whispers came out, the ones responsible for letting an atmosphere of "see we can get away with this," flourish and grow.

That language actually kind of reduces it to "I don't care if you as the perpetrator claim consent, because just like statutory rape laws, you cannot HAVE consent as you're their trainer, superior officer, etc."

If this makes sense? I'm a little out of it on my meds today, I'm hoping I made proper argument here and didn't come off as condoning something I totally DON'T.
tinylegacies 15th-Nov-2012 07:49 pm (UTC)
What? Women are sexually assaulted on military bases??? The hell you say.

I am sure this is a completely unusual and isolated incident.
halfshellvenus 15th-Nov-2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
“The cultural piece is one we need to continue to understand better.”

How does, "Knock that shit off" need more understanding?

Keep the court martials rolling, and ask why you needed outside "pressure" to investigate something like this.

That's the culture of silence that allows this crap to continue.

Edited at 2012-11-15 10:43 pm (UTC)
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