WASHINGTON — Nearly one in five female Air Force Academy cadets said they had been sexually assaulted during their time at the academy, according to a Defense Department survey.
Although the results of the survey are preliminary, Air Force and academy officials acknowledged the severity of the issues of culture and climate that led to the sex assault scandal.
"I've seen the numbers, and we have a problem," Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, commandant of cadets, said Thursday after a stern address to 4,000 cadets at the academy near Colorado Springs.
In his speech, Weida said that misconduct had tarnished the academy's reputation. "If you think this problem has been blown out of proportion by the media, you are wrong."
During his 20-minute speech, Weida held a sword, saying he brought it to remind the cadets of why they are at the academy.
"Some among us have rusted this sword," he said. "We have to identify those in our ranks not living up to our standards because their actions affect us all."
The sexual assault survey is part of an inquiry by Pentagon Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz into how academy leadership handled allegations from female cadets who said they were reprimanded after they reported being sexually assaulted.
A department official who had read the preliminary report, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the survey done this year showed that 109 of the 579 female cadets surveyed, or 18.8%, said they had been sexually assaulted in their time at the academy. Sexual assault was defined as anything from unwanted touching to rape.