By Debbie Gregory.
Sexual assaults have risen over 35 percent in the last two years, according to a Department of Defense report. The annual report states that an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults in the military in 2012 were unreported. In 2012, only 3,374 were actually reported.
The report came just days after the arrest and removal of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the chief of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention program. Krusinski allegedly sexually assaulted a woman in Arlington, VA.
Sexual assault within the military has been the subject of scandals, studies and congressional hearings. Of the victims who reported their assault, 62 percent said that they suffered personal and professional persecution because they spoke up. According to a DOD survey, two-thirds of female victims do not report their assaults for fear of reprisals. Reprisal against the victim is the opposite of justice – the opposite of what should happen when a crime is reported. Many victims have two little faith in the military’s justice system to come forward. The survey backs up the retribution thesis for at least some of the non-reporting.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced new plans to combat sexual assault within the DOD report on Tuesday. Secretary Hagel believes strongly that changes must be made within the command structure. He feels that taking the ultimate authority from the military would weaken the system.
The Air Force officer responsible for, of all things, sexual-assault prevention, was arrested and charged with sexual battery. In the past year, two Air Force generals, against the recommendations of their legal advisers, overruled military jury findings and granted clemency to convicted sex offenders.
So what should be done? Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested stripping commanders of their clemency powers. Secretary Hagel has promised to conduct a review of officer accountability.
A bill in the House of Representatives sponsored by Jackie Speier of California would address sexual assault in the military more realistically, by creating an autonomous unit within the Department of Defense. This unit would handle accusations independent of the military chain of command.
Military sexual assaults are appalling. Ending sexual violence against women and men in the military must start now!