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Air Force General Counsel: No Systemic Acceptance of Sexual Assault at Academy, No Institutional Avoidance of Responsibility

Aired June 27, 2003 - 20:06   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Closing accusations tonight and documents detailing a decade of alleged rapes and sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy. The Air Force has looked into dozens of cases since 1993.
Now, the Air Force general counsel has delivered a new report on sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy. It found that there was no systemic acceptance of sexual assault at the academy and no institutional avoidance of responsibility.

I'm joined now by Beth Davis, a former Air Force cadet who says she was raped. She says she actually followed protocol to report it. It went nowhere. Also joining us is her attorney Jim Cox and Senator Wayne Allard, good to have all of you with us this evening.

Before we start off with the three of you, we should make it very clear we did contact the Office of the Air Force's General Counsel. It had no comment on the report or the allegations of rape.

Welcome all. Beth, first of all, when you saw this report or at least a synopsis of the report what did you think?

BETH DAVIS, FMR. AIR FORCE CADET: Ma'am, it really didn't -- it didn't surprise me at all that the Air Force is exonerating themselves once again. It's -- I must say, though, it's my hope that this independent commission, you know, finds the truth because it hasn't been found yet. But, like I said, it's not surprise to me that they've exonerated themselves again once -- you know, it's becoming a trend.

ZAHN: So, Beth, you said it came as no surprise. Did it make you angry?

DAVIS: It really did. I'm, you know, I continue to see this and it lets me down. I really hope that they do find the truth. We need it to be found. We really hope that, you know, all of our stories are heard and that the country comes to see the truth in all of this and the Air Force is really, they're trying to skirt that.

ZAHN: Senator Allard, what is the truth here?

SEN. WAYNE ALLARD (R), COLORADO: Well, we're in the process of investigating to find out what the truth is. This report on the Air Force that you just was talking about was a report that I felt sounded rather lawyerly. It was obviously the lawyers in the Pentagon who had gotten a hold of it and I would describe it as incomplete.

Now, we have an inspector general report coming through and then we have another panel which I'd call the (unintelligible) panel that will be making report. It will be talking about accountability and hopefully when we get all three of those reports we'll have all the facts ahead of us so we can fully know what's been going on at the academy and I would commend individuals, like Beth Davis, who step forward because she is -- it's been her courage that has actually allowed my office to get involved.

ZAHN: Beth, as result of your coming forward, how has your life been changed?

DAVIS: Ma'am, I tell myself every day that the thing that I'm doing here with this whole -- with the academy is the right thing to do. I had promised myself when I left that I wasn't going to leave unless I made every effort possible to correct the situation there and that's my goal. Every day I live that out, these days.

ZAHN: Beth, it might be easier for our audience to understand the severity of some of their allegations if they could hear a little bit to the extent that you're comfortable telling your story and, if you're not comfortable going into the details I understand why, but help us better understand the culture of fear you say you were up against in coming forward with multiple allegations of rape.

DAVIS: Well, ma'am, I was raped and assaulted five times my freshman year by a superior cadet. He was a sophomore and I was a freshman. I cannot get into too many details. I was very, very afraid of reporting in fear that my career would go down the tubes. I thought that I would become the, you know, one of the reasons why women shouldn't be in the military and I really didn't want that.

I felt that I was following my goals and my dreams just as many other girls at the academy were doing and I really didn't want to ruin their careers as I thought I was going to do as well. So, I reported under the pressure of another cadet that I know. He found out pretty much by accident and said if you don't, I will.

Once I did, OSI they treated it -- they treated it like it was their top priority. The commander himself took my case and told me at every chance he got that he was -- he was completely behind me. He said that S.O.B. is going to jail. He was very adamant about taking the case as far as he could.

The case went on for about six to seven months and was abruptly shut down. OSI at first told me that the legal offices had advised them to shut the case down and when I went to the legal offices they told me that they had never seen my case and, in fact, they didn't even know who I was.

So, they sent me back to OSI to find out the truth and OSI said well actually the training group commander had shut it down and so I went to see the training group commander and the truth was revealed. It was him and he said that he was trying to be -- he was trying to look out for my best interests. He thought that I would end up looking bad in court and it would ruin me. I really didn't see that at all. The evidence that OSI had set in front of me the entire six or seven months was not something that, you know, I thought looked very bad. I wasn't a perfect cadet but I was just a college kid and nothing worse than that.

ZAHN: I'm going to be Counselor Cox into this very briefly here. Have you decided where to take Beth's case from here?

JIM COX, ATTORNEY FOR BETH DAVIS: No. We're going to take it wherever we need to to get appropriate redress for Beth. We hope to be able to push this process along so that it's good for the institution as well as the people that were affected, but a lot depends on the Air Force and whether they change their attitude.

ZAHN: And, Senator Allard, a final thought for you whether you are at all optimistic as this report goes to the next stage and the Senate eventually gets its hands on it that the climate will change at the Air Force Academy to prevent what Beth says happened to her.

ALLARD: Well, I'm pleased with the changes that have already happened. You know we've moved forward with a new superintendent, a new commandant, and there are some new rules and regulations in place now.

The key is that there is continued follow-up from those of us who are in a policy position like the Senate Armed Services Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, the Department of Defense secretary, and with the cadets' survey, which we're putting in place right now with the Defense Authorization Bill.

Hopefully we'll have the follow-up that we need to make sure that this doesn't happen again and that we can put the people in charge at the academy in a position where they know what's happened with the cadets and that's the importance, I think of having a well run cadet survey. In the past, they ran a cadet survey but it hasn't been monitored and managed the way it should be.

ZAHN: Well, Beth Davis, Senator Allard, and Jim Cox, we appreciate all of your joining us tonight. Thank you for your time.

DAVIS: Thank you.


Sexual Assault at Academy, No Institutional Avoidance of Responsibility>

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