AFA cadets join national pledge not to rape
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Peer leader cadets read a pledge to a sea of cadets that is a step to insure against future sexual misconduct. The cadets were reading pledge during the lunch hour on Wednesday, November 12, 2014. After lunch, the cadets returned to their squadrons to discuss the pledge and then to take the pledge themselves. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

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Cadets have pledged to not lie, cheat or steal.

They added another pledge Wednesday:

They will not rape.

It's part of a national movement on college campuses pushed by the Obama administration that has students pledge to intervene to stop sexual assaults and support victims. The "It's on Us" campaign has included an advertising blitz to coincide with football season.

"This pledge is a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault," cadet leaders said in unison in the cavernous Mitchell Hall dining room Wednesday as the rest of the school's 4,000 cadets looked on.

Jake Sortor, the top-ranking cadet at the academy, said the pledge is about reclaiming the academy's reputation.

"I think it starts with leading by example," he said.

An August Gazette investigation and recent television stories from ABC and ESPN have highlighted past problems with sexual assault at the school. Issues included a core group of football players and other cadets who threw a December 2011 party where date-rape drugs were reportedly used to incapacitate women for sexual assault.

"The academy has been in a bad light for things that happened when the majority of the cadet wing was not here," Sortor said.

The academy has had more recent concerns, too. This week, an evidence hearing was held in the case of a junior cadet charged with raping a classmate.

Sortor said the pledge is part of a drive to show the public that all but a small fraction of cadets behave well and excel.

"We all actively want to give the media a better representation of who we are," he said.

After cadet leaders took the pledge, cadets were expected to break up into squadrons to take the commitment individually. The academy emphasized that the effort is run by cadets, not by the brass, who were conspicuously absent Wednesday during the pledge ceremony.

William "T" Thompson, who heads the academy's Association of Graduates, watched the pledge ceremony. He said the commitment to stop rape goes back to the academy's roots. And having the cadets at the forefront means the cadets will take the pledge to heart, Thompson said.

A 1973 graduate, Thompson has seen the academy weather the storms of scandal before. He said it's important that cadets take charge of leading the school out of trouble.

"There are always problems in one sense or another," he said. "This is and should be a leadership training environment."

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Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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