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How the Air Force is fighting sexual assault, post-Lackland scandal

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On a recent winter day in a classified meeting room deep in the Pentagon, representatives from the Air Force’s education programs, from basic training to ROTC, are trying to pinpoint how to make sure the newest members of the Air Force get the message that leadership actually wants to know if they have been hurt – and that those preying on their fellow troops will be found and prosecuted with new tools that the force has not used in the past.

“It’s not just ‘Don’t sexually assault people.’ This is a piece of respect – how do you weave that in? It’s about how you lead people, how you treat people," says Brig. Gen. Eden Murrie, director of Air Force Services, the meeting leader. “That’s what we’re doing today. We’re looking at everything. Does it need to be radically changed? Do we just tweak it around the edges?”

On dry erase boards and PowerPoint slides around the room are names of programs that the Air Force is using to try to impart the unacceptability of assault and disrespect to its troops. They run the spectrum from “Frank: The Undetected Rapist” to “Street Smarts: You Deserve to be Here” to “Sex Offenders, Service Members, and You: Leadership Beyond the Obvious.” 

Conversation turns to “hunting season” at the Air Force Academy, the time when underclassmen have completed their first year of schooling and are then allowed to date upperclassmen. 

“That would offer a really good opportunity for conversation: ‘What do you think of that term?’ Let’s talk about maybe why we don’t want that in our culture anymore,” says Anne Munch, an attorney and sexual assault prevention consultant for the Pentagon.

“That’s a really good idea,” says Murrie.

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