Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sexual assault rates within the military increase despite growing awareness

The high rates of sexual assault within the military are becoming more well-known, but rates keep increasing, according to a new Pentagon report.  Why?  Tolerance - even promotion - of gender discrimination, alcohol abuse and protecting higher-ups in the chain of command -- all these play a role.  Sunday's arrest of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski for sexual battery -- the Air Force officer who was actually placed in charge of the sexual prevention programs within the Air Force -- is a major case in point:

NBC News:  The Air Force official in charge of its sexual-assault prevention program was arrested for groping, authorities said Monday.
Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, 41, was removed from his position as head of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office pending an investigation, the Air Force said.
The incident happened just after midnight Sunday when a drunken Krusinski allegedly approached the woman in a parking lot in Arlington, Va., and grabbed her breasts and buttocks, according to a police report.
Police said the woman fought off her assailant and scratches can be seen on Krusinski’s face in his mug shot. He was charged with sexual battery.
The charges are "deeply troubling," Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh said Tuesday. The Air Force has requested jurisdiction in the case, which is standard practice.  Krusinski didn't show up for work Monday and would not talk to colleagues about the incident, a senior defense official said.
"He has been removed," Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley said of Krusinski, who had been in charge of the sexual-assault unit for about two months.
His arrest comes as the U.S. military grapples with sexual assault in its ranks. The Air Force recently came under fire when a commander reversed a guilty verdict in a sexual assault case.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel expressed his "outrage and disgust" to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley Monday night after learning about the allegations against Krusinski. Hagel "emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively," a Pentagon statement said.
"This is absolutely infuriating," said Greg Jacob, policy director at the Service Women's Action Network. "Clearly the business-as-usual manner in which the military handles sexual assault cases has led to a climate where the very officers in charge of preventing this criminal activity feel that sexual assault is acceptable behavior.
"The military has proven time and again that the current system of prosecuting these cases is broken," he said.
The Pentagon will release its annual report on sexual assaults in the military on Tuesday afternoon, which shows an increase in reported assaults in fiscal year 2012 — up from 3,192 a year before. Furthermore, the number of people who made an anonymous claim that they were sexually assaulted but never reported the attack skyrocketed from 19,000 in FY11 to 26,000 in FY12.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a member of the Armed Services Committee, said the allegations were "extremely disturbing."
"It is clear that the status quo regarding sexual assaults in the military is simply unacceptable. Next week I am going to take this issue head on by introducing a set of common sense reforms," she said in a statement.
"We have to reform how the military handles sexual assault cases and take on the culture that perpetuates this kind of behavior.”
Sexual assaults of both women and men within the US armed forces must be seen partly as a consequence of the power structure within the military as well as training that uses belittlement and degradation as a method of control.

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