A scathing report on misconduct and mismanagement in the Air Force Academy’s troubled sexual assault prevention and response office blasted its former director as “derelict in the performance of [her] duties.”
The investigation substantiated, in whole or in part, three allegations of mismanagement by Teresa Beasley, the academy’s former sexual assault response coordinator. It recommended she be removed from her position as SARC and stripped of all supervisory duties.
The substantiated allegations found that Beasley:
- Failed to manage her staff or properly address ethical concerns regarding the SARC and SAPR staff.
- Spread rumors about personnel. Another portion of that allegation, that she allegedly allowed a climate of favoritism in the SAPR office, was not substantiated.
- Demonstrated a lack of competency that jeopardized her office’s ability to support victims of sexual assault.
The results of the commander-directed investigation were first reported by the Colorado Springs Gazette.
Despite multiple attempts by Air Force Times, Beasley could not be reached for comment. The academy would not comment on the circumstances of Beasley’s departure. The Colorado Springs Independent in July reported that Beasley was “escorted from her office on June 30 and told her personal belongings would be mailed to her.”
The report paints a portrait of an office that had lost its way, torn apart by gossip, feuding, shoddy record-keeping, workplace bullying and poor management that led the rest of the academy to lose faith in its ability to prevent sexual assault and help victims.
“I can’t think of anything to call [the SAPR office] other than toxic,” said one unnamed witness, who compared the level of infighting to that of a high school.
The investigation, dated June 26, was launched by former academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson and began as an effort to find out what was behind longstanding problems with the SAPR office. The report said 100 percent of SAPR office personnel had filed equal opportunity complaints against other SARC and SAPR employees, for example.
Current superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria on Wednesday told Air Force Times that his predecessor took swift action after the report’s completion, decertifying four of the office’s six employees — Beasley and three victim advocates — and placing them on administrative leave.
The academy arranged for seven Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Volunteer Victim Advocates from around the academy and local Air Force bases, including Peterson and Buckley, to be available to ensure victim care was not interrupted.
Silveria also said the SAPR office was moved under his vice superintendent, Col. David Harris, to provide more consistent supervision. Harris is meeting with the SAPR office every other week to check on the status of cases.
The academy has, for the first time, placed a program manager ― Dr. Kimberly Dickman, who previously served as a sexual assault prevention and response analyst ― to oversee the SARC. In addition to hiring a new SARC to replace Beasley, Silveria said the academy is working on hiring a second SARC for the 10th Air Base Wing to assist non-cadet airmen and civilians at the academy. Until now, one SARC has handled everybody.
The academy is also adding two new violence prevention integrators to focus on new ways to prevent sexual assault and other forms of violence. One of those has already been hired, and the academy is in the process of hiring the second.
When asked how the problem could have gotten so bad and been overlooked for so many years, Silveria ― who became superintendent in August, after the report had been completed ― said that cadets who didn’t trust the SAPR office may have been seeking support elsewhere.
Cadets could be going to mental health professionals at the academy’s hospital or peak performance center, which is similar to a student counseling center at a standard university, or the Special Victims Counsel program, chaplains, the equal opportunity office, or seniors who are trained in counseling.
“I think it’s possible that the cadets, because they had so many other options available to them, as they went to those other places, it may have covered up what was really going on inside the sexual assault office,” Silveria said. “They were getting support, as victims, from so many other elements that are around the Air Force Academy.”
Silveria also said that the SAPR office was moved around several times over the years, from underneath the commandant of cadets, to the culture, climate and diversity office, and now to the vice superintendent, which allowed the festering problems in the office to be overlooked for so long.
‘I’ve struggled as a manager’
The report details numerous ethical lapses by the office. One employee was alleged to have improperly disclosed confidential case information to third parties who didn’t need to know. Another lied to the academy’s inspector general during a previous inquiry.
Another employee was alleged to have broken confidentiality and improperly revealed a client’s name. An employee drove a cadet in her personal vehicle to the Office of Special Investigations in violation of Air Force policy. A SAPR employee once called to cancel a cadet’s family advocacy appointment — which the report said staff members should never do — but called the academy’s mental health clinic by mistake, causing further confusion.
Time and again, the report said, Beasley did nothing when informed about these lapses.
When Beasley heard that an employee might be having an improper sexual relationship with an unidentified person, she responded by saying, “I hope they do something about it this time,” and “this isn’t the first time this has happened.” The report said that as a supervisor, Beasley should have acted to investigate the situation herself and act if it were true.
Several witnesses quoted in the report blasted Beasley for her poor and passive leadership and mismanagement of the office. In a sign of how toxic the environment had become and how far confidence in Beasley had fallen, one unidentified person told investigators that her subordinates had even stopped referring to her by name, calling her only “the SARC.”
“Her tenure in the SAPR office has been one marked by regular absenteeism, which in turn leaves a vacuum for personnel issues to fester,” a witness, who also called her management style “laissez-faire.” “In short, Ms. Beasley cannot effectively manage the office, the SAPR staff, or the mission.”
Eight witnesses testified under oath that Beasley spread rumors about Academy personnel’s personal lives, including their sexual orientations, affairs, and sexually-transmitted diseases. One witness said Beasley spread false rumors about someone sleeping with OSI agents.
Beasley admitted to investigators, “I’ve struggled as a manager,” and “during my first seven years on the job, I wasn’t a leader or manager at all.” But she said she was understaffed and over-burdened for most of her tenure, and that she asked for help several times.
Two dozen witnesses offered testimony about Beasley’s alleged lack of competency and its potential to jeopardize the office’s ability to advocate for victims.
Proper record-keeping of victims’ files suffered under Beasley, the report said. She missed critical deadlines for reporting sexual assaults in three cases, the report said, didn’t properly notify commanders about sexual assault cases, and didn’t maintain the credentials necessary to update the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database with information on academy sexual assaults.
Outside organizations were starting to lose confidence in the SAPR office, one witness said.
Beasley was asked to stop teaching a course at the athletic department because she would often show up late, veer off the topic when lecturing, and didn’t connect with the cadets, the witness said. Other people from the SAPR office tried to take over the course, but the well had been poisoned — the athletic department ended up asking that nobody from the SAPR office come to teach.
Witnesses also described “half-hearted” training on sexual assault prevention, such as “leaving literature on a card table and then leaving.”
Another witness said Beasley improperly maintained social media contact with victims, and disclosed personal information about a cadet victim to that cadet’s parents, without permission.
Victims were not followed up with — sometimes for months at a time, witnesses said.
And a female survivor’s group that at one time was “thriving” was allowed to collapse under Beasley’s watch, witnesses said.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.