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Air Force Academy chief responds to CBS News sexual assault investigation

In response to our six-month investigation into sexual assault allegations at the United States Air Force Academy, current superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said he’s “disgusted” by the reports, but also said the academy doesn’t have “problems” when it comes to handling the cases. More than a dozen current and former cadets told CBS News they reported their sexual assaults to the Air Force Academy only to experience retaliation by their peers and their commanders.

“Just like you, I mean, I’m disgusted by that,” Silveria said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.” “I’m a parent. I have two children that are in their early 20s that went to college. Their mother, my wife, would be horrified if that happened to one of our children so I’m just as disgusted by … those assaults happened to those people, just as anyone else.”


Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria   

CBS News

Silveria began his tenure at the Air Force Academy in August of this year, succeeding retired Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, who had been superintendent since 2013.

In Part I of the investigation on Monday, “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell spoke to current and former cadets, one of whom said she regrets reporting her experience every day “because of everything that came after.” She requested we protect her identity. In the second part of our investigation, the academy’s former top official on sexual assault prevention and response, Teresa Beasley, told O’Donnell she believes the academy has tried to cover up circumstances surrounding two violent attacks on female cadets that occurred in December 2014 and January 2015 on the public running and biking trail behind the academy.

“Do you believe that two cadets were raped on that trail?” O’Donnell asked Silveria.

“I don’t know exactly what happened on the trail. But let me make it very, very clear, Norah, that whatever happened on the trail, the most important thing is that those cadets get support and that they get care and that their voices are heard and they have an opportunity to talk about – with someone to receive that care,” Silveria said.

Silveria said the academy did an “exhaustive” investigation into the incidents and “added a number of measures and protective measures on to the trail.”

Over the past 10 years, there have been 287 sexual assault reports made by cadets at the academy, which includes 32 reports last school year.

“Do you think there is a problem, General, at the academy when it comes to sexual assault and how it’s being handled? Do you think that there are problems there?” “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King asked Silveria.

“I don’t think there are problems, and let me tell you why. It is that you talked about some of the reporting of the numbers of sexual assaults. I want numbers of reports to go up. I know that doesn’t make sense right on the surface, but I want reporting to go up … so that I can provide that care, provide that support,” Silveria said. “Last year 38 percent of the assaults that were reported to our offices, 38 percent were assaults that happened prior to arriving at the Air Force Academy, which means some cadets received care and support for something that happened prior to arriving at the academy. That’s why I want to have that available to them, that support.”

Silveria said he’s responsible “for the climate and the culture” at the academy. 

“It’s been very clear that I expect the cadets and the faculty and the staff to treat each other with respect and dignity and I’ve enforced that from the very beginning,” Silveria reiterated on “CBS This Morning.” “But it’s also about accountability and so the office that was providing the support — and I know you interviewed someone who was in charge of that office — it’s about the accountability of that office. And so there were some allegations that she made about the office, but she was in a leadership role in that office, and while I respect her service in that office, there are standards in that office that we needed to maintain. You ran the piece about Gen. Johnson that she initiated the investigation. She had to take action because our cadets deserve the very best.” 

He said he’s holding everyone to a higher standard at the academy.

“Last month we removed a cadet that — for sexual assault. Last month we also removed a cadet for racial slurs. I’ve also held one of our athletic teams to a very high standard and suspended some coaches and players for not meeting standards. So I think what’s important is my role is to set that climate and set that culture at the Air Force Academy,” Silveria said. 

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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