DENVER – The Air Force may group female Air Force Academy cadets together in dormitories and provide rape victims with individual counselors as part of reforms planned in the wake of sexual assault complaints.
Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Chet Curtis said officials also may train nurses and investigators with the Office of Special Investigations to deal specifically with sexual assaults.
The Air Force has received 56 reports of sexual assaults since the academy began recording data in 1993, Air Force Capt. Peter Kerr said. That figure includes female cadets who said they were assaulted off-campus by civilians, he said.
The Air Force is investigating reports of sexual misconduct at the academy after at least 25 current and former cadets told members of Congress they were sexually assaulted. Some cadets said they were punished for minor infractions or forced to resign after reporting attacks to superiors.
The Air Force believes respect between male and female cadets has been eroding because of close dormitory living, Curtis said. Currently, male and female cadets can live in adjacent dorm rooms.
One change being considered is grouping female cadets together. Air Force investigators are expected to have recommendations by the end of the month.
Kate Summers, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Miles Foundation, which helps victims of violence in the military, said officials should be working to change the academy's culture.
"Segregating women is a very short-term and far too simplistic solution," she said. "It would be more appropriate to look at the hierarchical system they have, where the cadets that are senior can treat others as slaves. That's abuse of power."
In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday the allegations of misconduct were "enormously disappointing." It was his first public comment on the charges.
Rumsfeld expressed confidence in the response of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper and Air Force Secretary James Roche, saying they were dealing with the allegations aggressively.