AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy reversed course and said it will give confidentiality to cadets who report that they have been sexually assaulted.
Confidentiality has been a key issue in the school's assault scandal, with civilian investigators led by former Rep. Tillie Fowler saying it will encourage victims to come forward and help solve a problem that has plagued the academy for years.
Air Force Secretary James Roche and academy officials have said the school needs to follow Air Force policy requiring all crimes to be reported without the guarantee of anonymity. On Friday, however, Roche said that will change.
"We are trying to find a way to do it to be a pilot for the entire Air Force," he told the Board of Visitors, the only civilian panel charged with overseeing the prestigious school. He said the new policy should be in place by next month.
"We are convinced the Fowler committee has a good point," said Roche.
Roche said commanders know things must change because some female cadets will not report sexual assaults to a superior out of fear.
Board members Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Joel Hefley, both R-Colo., said they both supported the change.
"There needs to be a pathway of confidentiality," Hefley said.
Sign of optimism
Former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, recently appointed to the board, noted a recent cadet survey showed optimism in commanders' ability to solve the scandal but that women still fear reprisals for reporting assaults.
Superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa said that fear remains "very, very high" among cadets, though much of it is of peer ostracism.
There have been at least 142 reports of sexual assaults at the school in the past decade. New commanders have been installed and they are implementing sweeping changes, from alcohol policies to adding more patrols in the dormitories.
Gen. John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, said he was discouraged by e-mails from parents of cadets who say they think the scandal has been exaggerated. But he said talking with cadets has left him optimistic.