Late Breaking News
Angry and Ashamed
The timing of when the DoD released its annual report was not ideal. The statistics were released just as the officer in charge of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention and response program was making news headlines related to charges of sexual battery. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski was arrested on May 5 in Arlington, VA, after a woman accused him of grabbing her buttocks and breasts in a parking lot. Krusinski was removed from his position in the Air Force, pending an investigation.
Then, days after Krusinski’s arrest, the Army announced that a soldier who had been assigned as an equal opportunity adviser and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program coordinator at Fort Hood, TX, was under investigation for pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.
In response to these events, DoD announced that Hagel was directing all the services to retrain, recredential and rescreen all sexual assault prevention and response personnel and military recruiters.
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, called Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the White House to push them to resolve the issue.
Obama said at a press conference that military leaders were “angry” and “ashamed” at what was going on, adding, “Not only is it a crime. Not only is it shameful and disgraceful. But it is also going to make our military less effective than it can be.
“As such, it is dangerous to our national security. So this is not a sideshow. ... This goes to the heart and core of who we are and how effective we're going to be."
The president had said earlier, “If we find out somebody is engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period. It’s not acceptable.”
Likewise, lawmakers expressed disgust.
During a hearing on the FY 2014 budget request for the Air Force last month, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, (D-MI) said the arrest of Krusinski “speaks volumes about the status and effectiveness of the Department of Defense’s efforts to address the plague of sexual assaults in the military.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) called the situation “sickening” in a written statement after the allegations at Fort Hood came to light.
“Twice now, in a matter of as many weeks, we've seen the very people charged with protecting victims of sexual assault being charged as perpetrators. It's an astonishing reminder that the Pentagon has both a major problem on its hands and a tremendous amount of work to do to assure victims — who already only report a small fraction of sexual assaults — that they are changing the culture around these heinous crimes,” she said.
Meanwhile, congressmembers introduced legislation targeting how military sexual assaults are handled in the military legal system. Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), co-chairs of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, introduced a bill last month that strips military officers of the authority to change or dismiss an adjudged court-martial conviction for any charge or specification, except in the case of minor offenses. It also limits the convening authority’s discretion to commute or lessen the adjudged sentence determinations of a military court-martial.
On the Senate side, Murray and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced a bill that would create new category of legal advocates, to be called Special Victims’ Counsels, who would be responsible for advocating on behalf of the interests of sexual assault victims.