The US Air Force has removed the leadership of its elite academy following allegations that dozens of women cadets who reported rapes were ignored or reprimanded.
US Air Force actions are under close scrutiny
Air Force officials said that four top officials at the Colorado Springs academy will be replaced, two by women, in an attempt to implement measures aimed at providing a safer environment for the cadets. A fifth person will retire.
More than 50 cases of alleged sexual assault against female cadets have been reported at the academy since 1993.
Many of the woman involved have consistently charged that they were ignored when the incidents were reported to military authorities.
"Change must occur and a new leadership team to implement these changes is in the best interest of the academy and the Air Force," Secretary of the Air Force James Roche said in a statement.
The allegations, which have caused a national scandal, have led to several military investigations of the academy being instigated.
Congressional hearings are also being held to hear the response of the women who have alleged they were raped.
They've proven they're ineffective leaders, and a little slap on the wrist isn't enough... as far as I know they were covering up crimes
Alleged victim Jessica Brakey
Many said they were too afraid to report sexual attacks by fellow cadets, and those who did suffered retaliation from academy officials in the form of official reprimands and even threats of expulsion.
On Tuesday, women members of the US House of Representatives expressed their concern in a letter to Mr Roche over the controversy, calling for more support for victims of sexual assault and harsher sentences for the perpetrators.
The academy plans to make further changes to ensure the safety of its female cadets, including:
- Training medical personnel to respond to sexual assault cases
- Offering amnesty to cadets raising sexual
- Expelling cadets for under-age drinking or providing alcohol to an under-age cadet.
'Covering up crimes'
The academy is also reportedly planning to remove a prominent sign that says "Bring Me Men" from its prominent position near the campus courtyard and parade ground.
However a former cadet at the academy, 23-year-old Jessica Brakey, who says she was raped, said that more steps needed to be taken to ensure reports of sexual assault would be taken seriously.
"They've proven they're ineffective leaders, and a little slap on the wrist isn't enough," she said.
"As far as I know they were covering up crimes. Isn't that a crime?"