I confess myself somewhat confused by the outrage being expressed over the treatment of Air Force cadet ‘Kate.’
Even commentators like John Ray and Andrew Bolt, normally supportive of the defence forces, have rushed to join the chorus of condemnation directed at the Defence Force Academy and its Commanding Officer, Commodore Bruce Kafer.
As I understand it, this is the sequence of events:
‘Kate’ was due to attend disciplinary hearings for conduct relating to alcohol and unauthorised absences.
Before these could be heard, she made allegations that a consensual sexual encounter with another cadet had been secretly videoed by that person, and relayed to other cadets.
The Academy contacted police to check whether these allegations, if true, constitued a criminal offence and should be the subject of a police investigation. The police advised that this was not the case. This meant the videoing ‘Kate’ claimed had happened was a disciplinary matter to be investigated internally.
‘Kate’ was advised of this, told that she had the support of staff, and and that the hearings relating to alleged breaches of codes of conduct by her could be delayed if she wished.
‘Kate’ then contacted the media to complain about her treatment.
She subsequently met with Commanding Officer Kafer, who reiterated his support for her, and his intention that her complaint should be properly investigated.
He reminded her that he also had a duty of care to the Academy and to other cadets, including the cadet against whom she had made the allegation.
He told her that there appeared to be some anger amongst the other cadets over her decision to make her allegation public before it could be investigated or any action taken.
He suggested that an apology to the other cadets for that decision might go some way towards repairing the relationship between her and them. It soon became clear that the anger felt by the other cadets towards her made this impractical.
‘Kate’ continued her complaints to media organisations.
That’s what happened. I am struggling to see how the actions of Commodore Kafer or other academy staff were at any point inappropriate.
Her complaints were taken seriously. The police were contacted. She was offered a delay in hearing of complaints made against her. She was offered support.
When she contacted the media, her story had the potential to bring the academy and its officers, and her fellow cadets, into disrepute. It is difficult to see how she intended anything else.
If that was her intention, she has certainly been successful, with Defence Minister Stephen Smith denouncing academy staff and Commodore Kafer in particular as “stupid and insensitive.”
But there is no reason, except Minister Smith’s and the media’s rush to judgement, to think that the Academy’s investigation would not have been thorough and fair.
If the facts were as Kate claimed, it is likely the cadets involved would have been subject to sanctions not just by their commanding officers, but by other cadets. The use and betrayal of one’s peers, for sex or anything else, is not taken lightly.
One of the things that is telling about this is that Kate’s fellow cadets, the people who know her best and are best placed to know what happened, regarded her actions as a betrayal of them and of the Academy.
Just one more brief thought.
In any situation where young men and women work or study together, you will find a small minority of men who regard women as sexual objects, sport. You will also find a small minority of women who use their sexuality to manipulate and blackmail. Neither are well-regarded by their peers.
There is a simple rule for avoiding difficulties with either of these obnoxious minorities: Keep your pants on and get on with your job.
I might add a second rule. You’re supposed to be grown-ups, leaders. If you break rule one and then feel used or manipulated, don’t come whining to us.
I think the majority of cadets would agree.
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