The Air Force Academy has made a significant rule change in order to encourage service members to report incidents of sexual assault from other airmen and airwomen. In specific, “collateral” misconduct violations and their related penalties will not be filed against someone who comes forward with a sexual assault allegation.
Underage drinking, fraternization, and recreational drug use are all widely prohibited by the Air Force Academy’s rules. However, in many sexual assault cases, the victim was found to be engaging in one or more of these prohibited activities prior to or when the sexual assault occurred. As such, after coming forth to report the sex crime, the victim would be consequently penalized for their own misconduct, which has prompted victims to hesitate making an allegation, or not make an allegation at all.
A list of common collateral misconduct violations that will not be pursued if uncovered during a sexual assault investigation includes but is not limited to:
- Underage drinking
- Recreational drug use, excluding certain substances
- Possession of alcohol in the dorms
- Consensual sexual activity in the cadet area
- Certain “over the fence” violations
The Air Force Academy’s recent policy change should eliminate that hesitation by shielding the victim from penalties for “collateral” misconduct. Although, some prohibited behaviors like adultery can still be persecuted and punished, and any violation could be penalized if the severity of the violation has caused physical harm or morale degradation.
Each case will be handled uniquely and under the discretion of ranking commanders. A key factor to choose to not penalize a collateral misconduct violation is if it would never have been brought to light had the sexual assault investigation not begun. If the collateral violations are severe enough to warrant penalties, those punishments can be deferred until the sexual assault case closes. Additionally, commanders have been instructed to consider if enforcing the penalties for a collateral violation would be worth the risk of deterring victims from speaking up about sexual assault in the future.
The decision to bring forth the rule changes and to encourage more people to speak up about sexual assault was approved by Brigadier General Kristin Goodwin, the current Commandant of Cadets.
Attorney Joseph L. Jordan is a former prosecutor who now applies all of his legal knowledge and insight to military criminal defense casework. Ever since his law firm was founded in 2011, he has been hard at work defending military service members from all branches of the United States Armed Forces and in a variety of case types, including Article 120 Rape charges. You can also depend on him if you are facing court martial and are worried about how the outcome could impact your military career or service history.
If you have been accused of sexual assault as a military service member, call (866) 624-7503 or contact his firm online now.