COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Air Force Academy leaders believe there are positives to numbers that show the AFA as the military service academy with the highest rate of sexual assault and harassment reports.
"It's a positive sign that AFA cadets trust the system," said Col. Reni Rener, vice commandant in charge of student culture and climate.
The Department of Defense report came from numbers gathered by each military service academy, so the figures are not a surprise to AFA leaders.
Over the last school year, there were 45 incidents of sexual harassment or assault.
The previous year there were 52 at the academy. It's a decrease from year to year, but Rener said the high numbers show that cadets trust the system put in place over the last 10 years to curb harassment and assaults.
It begins with basic training. Cadets learn from the first day about sexual assault definitions, what's allowed and how to report a problem.
"It's hard to say how much sinks in, but really we start that on the first day," said Rener.
By senior year, cadets are dealing with scenarios of what to do if someone approaches them with a sexual harassment or assault problem.
The academy wants each report treated the same way even if the response may vary greatly.
"The response could be retraining, letters of admonishment, letters of counseling, or an Article 15," said Rener.
Rener said it's important to take each report seriously to make it clear that the academy has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment and abuse.
"We talk about a continuum of harm that ranges from the sexual harassment end of things -- which is the inappropriate comments, the do this for me or I won't promote, you those kind of things -- all the way up to sexual assault, and they're all interrelated," said Rener.
As for the victims, counseling and legal aid are now routinely offered to those who report abuse.
"In the past, it was the government against the subject and the victim was a witness, if you will," said Rener.
Rener said the mental health support has led to an increase in reports from victims who had previously not reported an incident.