Washington The Air Force Academy officer formerly in charge of cadet discipline told military investigators that she never saw a "true rape" at the academy, and that problems were merely a result of a permissive attitude toward drinking and fraternization.
Col. Laurie Sue Slavec made her comments to an Air Force investigator looking into allegations from female cadets who said leadership at the academy was indifferent to their claims that they were sexually assaulted.
Portions of the interview transcript were among the thousands of pages of documents released by the Air Force investigative panel this week.
"Partying is encouraged and partying is a ticket to the acceptance community and partying becomes an environment and you introduce alcohol into that which then dilutes the judgments, then sexual assault becomes an issue," Slavec said. "I've never been party to or witnessed somebody who was ... taken by force, which if you look at that end of the spectrum, a true rape or a true violent assault, I've never seen that happen."
According to Air Force records, there were 142 sexual assaults reported at the academy since 1993. Figures released last week by the Pentagon inspector general said nearly one in five female cadets surveyed said they had been sexually assaulted since arriving at the academy.
"It's more than disturbing. It speaks to the level of understanding of what constitutes rape," said Anita Sanchez, spokeswoman for the Miles Foundation, an advocacy group for victims of sexual violence.
Slavec was in the first female class at the academy, graduating in 1980. She became commander for the 34th Training Group last year with responsibilities that included developing and implementing policies for cadet discipline and monitoring programs on cadet morale and welfare.
Nonetheless, when asked by investigators if she knew how the Air Force Academy defined sexual assault, she said she did not.
She told the investigator that sexual assaults at the academy were a result of a permissive attitude toward male and female cadets spending the night in each other's dorm rooms.
"So then you find cohabitation going on, and you introduce alcohol into it and there may be more than the two people in there and there's a party going on and nobody is saying stop. Nobody is making any indication that this is not consensual," she said. "Now, at what point does that become sexual assault? ... You get caught after having sex together for the last six months and now all of a sudden that incident becomes rape."