Inquiry blisters Air Force Academy’s sex-assault office
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — An Air Force Academy office that was supposed to help sexual assault victims was crippled by infighting, poor management, rumors and shoddy record-keeping, an internal investigation found.
The investigation concluded that the office was derelict in its duties and that the director should be fired, but she resigned, The Colorado Springs Gazette reported Sunday. The Gazette obtained a copy of the report under open records laws.
The report said former director Teresa Beasley spread rumors about personnel and failed to manage the office effectively. It said under Beasley’s leadership, the office wasn’t competent to advocate for victims.
No working phone number could be found for Beasley, and she didn’t immediately respond to a message left by The Associated Press through social media. The Air Force report said Beasley told investigators that for years she did not lead or manage the office well.
“I admit that during my first seven years on the job, I wasn’t a leader or a manager at all,” the report quoted her as saying.
Beasley ran the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at the school outside Colorado Springs starting in 2007. The office was created after a 2003 scandal in which dozens of female cadets said their reports of sexual assault were mishandled or ignored.
The office is responsible for overseeing rape prevention programs, making advocates available to victims, providing information to victims and accompanying them to appointments and court proceedings.
The former academy superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, ordered an internal inquiry called a commander-directed investigation in May, although it was not immediately clear what prompted her to do so.
Johnson has since retired.
The report concluded the office was overwhelmed by internal problems, and witnesses told investigators that some sexual assault victims got inadequate support, or none at all.
“The amount of evidence demonstrating a lack of competency and ability in delivering professional victim care is overwhelming,” the 560-page report said. “It wouldn’t be feasible to try to rehash — or even summarize — all the issues and concerns borne out by witness testimony.”
Witnesses, whose names were redacted, told investigators that the office did not return phone calls, did not respond to new reports of sexual assault and did not always send an advocate to a hospital to support a victim who was undergoing a forensic examination for sexual assault.
Witnesses claimed Beasley passed along a rumor that an officer at the academy was having an extramarital affair and that she once suggested a victim’s advocate in the office was having sex with an assault victim.
“No fewer than eight witnesses testified under oath that they had knowledge of Ms. Beasley spreading rumors,” the report said.
The report called into question the accuracy of the academy’s statistics on sexual assault, which are closely watched by the Pentagon and Congress. Beasley’s office was responsible for keeping those records.
Witnesses claimed Beasley submitted hand-written and poorly documented statistical reports to the Pentagon.
“I need accurate data to do my job and yet I have no confidence in the data the office produces,” one witness told investigators. “I’m not sure I can trust USAFA data for the past decade.”
Academy officials said they suspended problem employees in the office and appointed an interim director. There was no interruption in care for sexual assault victims, academy spokesman Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said.
This story has been corrected to show the inquiry was called a commander-directed investigation, not commander-initiated investigation.
Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com