Culture, law complicates military bid to end sexual assaults
WASHINGTON — One after another, the charges have tumbled out — allegations of sexual assaults in the military that have triggered outrage, from local commanders to Capitol Hill and the Oval Office.
But for a Pentagon under fire, there seem to be few clear solutions beyond improved training and possible adjustments in how the military prosecutes such crimes. Changing the culture of a male-dominated, change-resistant military that for years has tolerated sexism and sexist behavior is proving to be a challenging task.
“Members of the Hill, people in the department and the American people have the right to be outraged,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said on Wednesday, adding that the military “must hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
As new sexual assault allegations emerged this week involving an Army soldier who was assigned to prevent such crimes — the second military member involved in similar accusations — the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is working on a written directive to spell out steps aimed at resolving the escalating problem.
But President Obama, fuming at a news conference last week, warned that he wanted swift and sure action, not “just more speeches or awareness programs or training.” Sexual offenders need to be “prosecuted, stripped of their position, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period,” he said.
“The president has made very clear his expectations on this issue,” Little said, adding that Hagel told Obama on Tuesday about an Army sergeant first class at Fort Hood, Texas, who faces allegations of sexual misconduct. The case involves the soldier's activities with three women, including an allegation that he may have arranged for one of them to have sex for money, according to a defense official.
Those allegations come on the heels of a Pentagon report last week that estimated that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, based on survey results, out of 1.4 million in the services.
That report, and a recent series of arrests and other sexual assault problems across the military, have triggered a rush of initiatives from the Pentagon and proposed legislation on Capitol Hill.
But experts warn that stemming an increase in assaults will require concrete changes — both in law and in military culture.
“There is not a quick fix,” said Anu Bhagwati, former Marine captain and executive director of the Service Women's Action Network. “The military can't train its way out of this problem.”
She said that changing the prosecution system is critical, but victims also have to be convinced that they won't be punished if they come forward.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Video of white Chicago patrolman fatally firing on fleeing black youth sparks demonstrations
- Email address gives FBI lead on record theft of user IDs, passwords
- Fla. turkey seeks divine intervention
- In a first, private company’s rocket returns safely to Earth
- 3 arrested in shooting of Minneapolis protesters
- Human error, technical malfunction blamed in attack on Afghan hospital
- Kentucky Gov. Beshear restores right to vote for thousands of nonviolent felons
- Newborn left in manger in N.Y. church, police say
- 20,000 still in dark in Spokane from windstorm
- Berra, Barbra among 17 to receive nation’s highest civilian award
- Self-driving vehicles closer to getting green light as feds ease stance