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USA: More rape charges at the Air Force Academy

Publish Date: 05 Jan 2012

US Air Force Academy base in Colorado.

3 Air Force Academy cadets accused of sexual assault

COLORADO SPRINGS - Three Air Force Academy cadets are accused of sexual assault, adding to a surge of sex crimes reported at the school.

The allegations surfaced Thursday as the military tries to reduce sexual assault among its ranks.

The Academy says the cadets are involved in three separate cases that took place at different times over the past 15 months.

According to the charge sheet, Cadet Stephan H. Claxton tried to engage in a sexual encounter with a female cadet while she was incapacitated on Nov. 4.

Claxton is accused of striking the alleged victim in the face, trying to take down her pants without her consent, kissing her without consent and then choking her.

Claxton is in the class of 2013.

Another cadet, Kyle A. Cressy, is accused of sexually assaulting a woman on May 28, 2011 while she was incapacitated, according to documents obtained by 9Wants to Know.

Cressy is in the class of 2012.

The third cadet, Robert M. Evenson, Jr., is accused of wrongfully engaging in a "dating relationship" with another cadet from March 1 to May 27, 2010.

Evenson is in the class of 2011.

Evenson is also accused of holding down another cadet to engage in sexual contact with her and authorities say he also sexually assaulted her between March 1 and May 1, 2010.

The charge sheet also says Evenson abused his position as a non-commissioned officer to help another cadet in exchange for sexual favors.

"The alleged misconduct in each of the three cases is unrelated, it occurred at different times over the last 15 months, and Academy officials received victims' reports at various times. The fact that the charges in all three cases are being preferred at this time is due to the near simultaneous completion of each individual investigation," Col. Tamra Rank, the Academy's vice superintendent, said in a statement.

"Each case will be adjudicated independently and the accused in each case is presumed innocent until proven guilty," she said. "We take these allegations seriously. Sexual misconduct is a particularly egregious offense and we have a zero tolerance policy in the Air Force."

Each cadet will have hearings in January or February and the superintendent will decide if the cases will go to trial.

"We expect the best from our cadets, and do not tolerate unacceptable behaviors," Rank said.

Statistics from the Pentagon show a spike in sexual assault at the academy - from 9 incidents two years ago to 33 last year.

Connie Brachtenbach is the executive director of TESSA, an organization that provides confidential support for victims and works closely with the Air Force Academy.

Brachtenbach says 1 in 4 women will experience an act of sexual assault in their lifetime. She does not believe there's more rape happening at the Air Force Academy than at other college campuses - she just thinks it's being reported more often.

In fact, Brachtenbach says the spike in reported sexual assault could actually be a sign things are changing at the academy for the better.

"I'm really glad that the victims felt safe to come forward and report the crime. They've been very proactive about reviewing their policies and procedures. We know that sex assaults are vastly underreported and so the fact that the Air Force Academy has a higher percentage of women...reporting to me demonstrates that they've really made huge progress in terms of creating a safe environment for victims to come forward."

That push to create a safe environment began after scandal rocked the academy in 2003. Dozens of women said their sex assault claims were ignored or mishandled. Top leaders were fired and academics saw big changes.

"I definitely believe that they're working hard. I wouldn't say that sex assault is more prevalent in one environment or the other. It's actually a pretty prevalent crime in our communities in general," Brachtenbach said.

TESSA also offers a crisis line for sexual assault and domestic violence victims in the Pikes Peak region. That number is 719-633-3819.

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