Conduct Unbecoming

  • Share
  • Read Later
DAVID ZICKL FOR TIME

GROUNDED: Fullilove left the academy and now goes to U of Arizona

(2 of 2)

Dazed and confused, she told no one in the days afterward what had happened. He was an upperclassman who could ruin her career with just one accusation. She knew all too well from older female cadets the consequences of reporting a rape. "We were told if you want to stay at the academy, don't report it. They'll get you [thrown] out." But when her attacker walked unannounced into her dorm room two days later, saying he was "sorry if he had done anything inappropriate," she realized the threat would always be there. She decided to leave.

Once at home, she fell apart but could not confide in anyone, fearing that her parents, as military personnel, would blame themselves. "She was a basket case. She sat on the floor of her room all day, sobbing," says Fullilove's mother, who wants to remain unnamed so that she can work for change within the Air Force. She persuaded her daughter to report the rape four months afterward but that proved fruitless, even for an officer's daughter. Says her mother: "We went through hell for a couple of years."

Is the academy's cocky flyboy culture at fault for its continuing woes? Or were wrong signals sent by the chain of command? Or both? Senator Allard has publicly identified Brigadier General S. Taco Gilbert III, the commandant of cadets, as a "common thread" in reports of women victims who felt they were treated punitively or indifferently. For the academy superintendent, Lieut. General John R. Dallager, a combat pilot with 600-plus hours' flying over hot spots like Southeast Asia and Bosnia — and the father of three daughters in the military — the scandal has been devastating. "There is a power relationship," he notes. "There is a potential for abuse."

Susan Archibald, an academy graduate who says she was sexually taken advantage of by an academy chaplin when she was a cadet in 1983, argues that the academy's attempt to keep the problems hidden is what has so dispirited female cadets. Says Archibald, who now runs a nonprofit for survivors of clergy abuse in Louisville, Ky.: "We know in the military that bad things are going to happen to us, in terms of going to war, dying, so you go in with the mind-set of sacrifice. But we didn't think that sacrifice means keeping your mouth shut about being personally abused."

Fullilove, 21, is putting the nightmare behind her, getting on with life, taking predental courses and teaching hip-hop at the campus gym. "I had a perfect childhood. I was the perfect student. Nothing bad ever happened to me until this," she says, recalling her experience. "But I got through it." Now it's the academy's turn to do the same.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next Page