Ex-Air Force captain: I told them I was a sex assault victim. They kicked me out.

SA woman continues to appeal termination from Lackland AFB graduate program

By Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A former Air Force captain said she was removed from a clinical psychology graduate program at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and later discharged from the military after disclosing that she was a victim of sexual and domestic assault.

Robin Becker, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was a former staff sergeant in the Army who completed a branch transfer and direct commission to the Air Force in 2014, in order to complete a yearlong clinical psychology internship at Lackland Air Force Base's Wilford Hall.

Admittance into the rigorous program for Becker came after she completed the academic coursework portion for a doctoral degree in clinical psychology at a university in Pennsylvania.

However, months before Becker moved to San Antonio to begin the internship, her fiancé was charged with physically and sexually assaulting her inside their Philadelphia apartment.

"Clothing torn, I was bleeding and screaming and I ran into the nearest sandwich shop, which was across the street and screamed, 'Can someone please call the police?'" Becker said, recalling the April 2014 attack.

Pennsylvania court records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders show that Becker's fiancé, Adam Chylinski, was charged with felony aggravated indecent assault, unlawful restraint, indecent assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. The two charges involving indecent assault fall under Pennsylvania's sexual assault statutes.

Becker said despite the sexual assault incident and multiple other acts of physical violence against her by Chylinski, she allowed him to live with her in San Antonio while she completed the internship.

"Alienating me from my family, alienating me from my friends, taking away anybody that would have been a support person or anybody that I could have reached out to," said Becker, describing her toxic relationship with Chylinski.

Soon after Becker began the internship, in August 2014, San Antonio police records show that Chylinski was charged with felony family strangulation for an incident in the garage of the couple's far west San Antonio apartment.

Evidence photos released by the Bexar County District Attorney's Office show Becker with blood on her shirt and redness on her neck.

Chylinski, who received a large gash over his eye while struggling with officers on scene, was accused of reaching into Becker's car and pressing his arm against her neck as she tried to leave the apartment.

Police photos showed shattered glass throughout much of the garage.

Chylinski, while interrogated by an SAPD detective, was combative when asked about the strangulation incident, but admitted to hitting Becker in the past, according to footage of his questioning.

In dash camera video of the aftermath, Becker can be heard telling officers that she did not want her superiors at Lackland Air Force Base to be notified of her fiancé's arrest.

"I was humiliated. I was completely embarrassed, because things like that don't happen to people like me. Things like that don't happen to doctors in training. Things like that don't happen to military officers," Becker said.

Bexar County court records show Chylinski accepted a plea deal for the felony charge in early October 2014 in exchange for a $1,500 fine, two years probation and 220 hours of community service.

However, months later, in January 2015, Chylinski was again arrested by San Antonio police after officers responded to the apartment and found Becker with a split-open eyebrow and a swollen lip.

Investigators later charged him with family violence - 2nd and violation of a protective order.

"He turned around and threw the remote control at my face," said Becker, who added that she refused Chylinski's attempts to put ice on the open gash. "And then he beat me in the face with the bag of ice."

This time, Chylinski remained in jail.

Court records show in April 2015, Chylinski signed a plea agreement in exchange for receiving two years in prison and another $1,500 fine.

Chylinski's probation in the August 2014 strangulation case was also revoked, according to court records.

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Military records obtained by the Defenders show that Becker was verbally counseled for being late to the internship twice in March 2015 and twice in early April 2015, including two days before Chylinski signed his plea agreement.

"He was calling day and night. His defense attorney was calling day and night," said Becker, describing their attempts to get her to testify as a character witness in the second San Antonio case against Chylinski.

Becker said she was also dealing with the demanding logistics of trying to cooperate with prosecutors in Chylinski's Pennsylvania case.

In May 2015, less than a week after being tardy a fifth time, Becker was given a letter of counseling and placed on 60-day program-level remediation.

Becker, according to military records, then confirmed to internship leadership that she was a victim on intimate partner assault.

After being tardy three more times in July 2015, Becker received a letter of reprimand and was told that she was failing to meet program standards.

According to Department of Defense records, internship leadership and Becker have varying accounts of when she explicitly reported that she was a sex assault victim.

In early August 2015, Becker was placed on academic probation. It was then, according to the Department of Defense, that she finally disclosed that she was also a sexual assault victim.

Becker contends that she informed leadership as early as May 2015.

"I could not believe that this had snowballed into what it had become," Becker said.

Three months after informing leadership about the sexual assault incident, Becker was terminated from the internship, records show.

Her termination was overturned in December 2015 and her training at Wilford Hall was extended through the winter and into the spring of 2016, records show.

However, psychology faculty voted to terminate Becker a second time in June 2016, claiming she failed to meet program goals outlined while she was on academic probation.

"To come into the Air Force and to have everything I've ever worked for taken away from me, it's the worst thing that ever happened. It was worse than the assaults. And it was like reliving it over and over and over again," Becker said.

Becker said internship director Dr. Ann Hryshko-Mullen targeted her and retaliated against her both before and after she disclosed the sexual assault incident.

Records show in April 2015, Becker was forced by Hryshko-Mullen to submit to breath and blood screenings for alcohol.

The tests came back negative, according to military records.

In her appeal of her first termination from the internship, Becker said Hryshko-Mullen publicly embarrassed her and even encouraged other internship leadership to smell Becker's breath for alcohol.

In November 2015, three months after the sex assault admission, Hryshko-Mullen said during a hearing for Becker that the doctor in training "cannot possibly be a self-sufficient psychologist," according to appeal paperwork filed by Becker and one of her military attorneys.

The appeal describes Hryshko-Mullen's distaste for Becker as "palpable."

Becker also said after she disclosed she was a sex assault victim, leadership went out of its way to ensure that tardiness continued to be part of Becker's record.

"There were set ups, so that they could mark me for being late, to prove that this was an ongoing issue," Becker said. 

Text records provided by Becker show that in June 2016, she was instructed to report to the internship at 9:30 a.m., two hours later than normal.

Becker's major confirmed the delayed report time, only to text Becker to come in now for a 9 a.m. patient appointment, records show.

Email records show Hryshko-Mullen then requested that a rotation supervisor inform Becker that she was again tardy and that the conversation had the "potential for the resident to become distressed in anticipation of consequences."

Officials with the Air Force's 59th Medical Wing declined to make Hryshko-Mullen and other internship leadership available for an interview for this story.

The wing's chief of public affairs released the following statement:

Unfortunately, interviews regarding Captain Robin Becker's time in the Clinical Psychology Internship Program at Wilford Hall will not be available. The Privacy Act prohibits disclosure of personal information without the prior written consent of the individual to whom the record pertains. Information on the participation in the Graduate Allied Health Education program falls under the Privacy Act. When information protected under the Privacy Act may not be released under the Privacy Act, the request must be processed under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act.

The public affairs official did not respond to a follow-up question asking where to send consent from Becker to have leadership discuss her case.

In late September, the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General ruled that Becker's claims of reprisal by Hryshko-Mullen were unfounded.

Becker said her next step is to take her case before a military board of corrections.

"That's OK, because I need to see this through. I don't have any other option. This is my whole life. It's everything I've ever worked for. It's everything I've ever done," Becker said.

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