Anonymous survey: Sharp rise in sexual assaults in US military

May 8, 2013 | By More

May 8, AP – Washington: The military recorded only 3,374 sexual assault reports last year, up from 3,192 in 2011, suggesting that many sexual assault victims continue not to report the crimes for fear of retribution or a lack of justice under the department’s system for prosecuting them.

human rights observers sharp rise in sexual assault in US military intl. news 1

The problem of sexual assault in the military came into focus on Tuesday as the Pentagon released a study estimating that 26,000 people in the military were sexually assaulted in the 2012 fiscal year, up from 19,000 in the same period a year before.

The study, based on anonymous surveys, was released two days after an officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programmes for the Air Force was arrested in Arlington and charged with sexual battery. The officer’s arrest drew a strong condemnation from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.

“If the man in charge for the Air Force in preventing sexual assault was alleged to commit sexual assault this weekend,” Gillibrand said, then perhaps military officials were not capable of investigating and prosecuting the crimes.

Gillibrand, who nearly yelled as she addressed Michael B Donley, the secretary of the Air Force, said that the continued pattern of sexual assault of women – and to a far lesser degree of men – was “undermining the credibility of the greatest military force in the world”.

At the same hearing, General Mark A Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, told the committee that he was “appalled” by the conduct and the arrest.

Gillibrand is seeking to have all sex offenders in the military discharged from service, and she would like to replace the current system of adjudicating sexual assault by taking it outside a victim’s chain of command. She is particularly focused on decisions, including one made recently by an Air Force general, to reverse guilty verdicts in sexual assault cases with little explanation.

Senator Claire McCaskill, who is also on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is holding up the nomination of Lieutenant General Susan J Helms to be vice-commander of the Air Force’s Space Command. McCaskill said she wanted additional information about Helms’ decision to overturn a jury conviction in a sexual assault case last year.

McCaskill was unsparing Tuesday in her assessment of the military’s current policies for policing and adjudicating sexual assault.

“It is hard for me to believe that somebody could be accused of that behaviour with a complete stranger and not have anything in his file,” she said, referring to Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, the Air Force officer accused of sexual battery Sunday.

Police say the colonel approached a woman in a parking lot in Arlington near the Pentagon and grabbed her breasts and buttocks before she fended him off and called 911.

Associated press writer for human rights observers – contributed to this report.

 

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