Air Force Academy adopts policy encouraging cadets to report sexual assaults

The U.S. Air Force Academy has a new policy to encourage cadets to report sexual assaults. The new guidelines follow a CBS News investigation that revealed troubling patterns on how those reports were handled.

CBS News obtained a memo outlining the academy's new "Safe to Report" policy. It says victims should not be punished for what's known as "collateral misconduct" violations, such as underage drinking or sneaking off-base. Some victims said they were afraid to come forward for fear of facing penalties. In CBS News' investigation, a cadet said she was blamed for her assault, because she was underage and drinking alcohol.

In an effort to "encourage reporting, avoid unnecessary additional trauma, and maintain good order and discipline," the memo said, commanders have been given more authority to decide whether corrective actions should be taken regarding collateral misconduct and when.

Air Force Academy chief responds to CBS News sexual assault report

More than a dozen current and former cadets told CBS News they reported their sexual assaults to the Air Force Academy only to experience retaliation by their peers and their commanders. In the May 8 memo signed by Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin, the academy says it prohibits "retaliation and ostracism" against sexual assault victims.

The academy's former top official on sexual assault prevention and response, Teresa Beasley, told CBS News the academy often downplayed or ignored allegations. When CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell asked Beasley how cadets are treated when they go public with sexual assault, she said, "It's typically negative."

"There are usually negative things said on anonymous social media... They're ostracized frequently by their squad mates… and usually word spreads pretty fast. And word gets out who is the victim. … They'll have their name plates taken off the room and thrown on the ground. People won't sit with them at lunch," Beasley said.

CBS News is nominated for two Emmys for the reporting.