Military Doesn’t Tolerate Sexual Assault, Leaders Tell Congress

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2011 — The Defense Depart­ment has zero tol­er­ance for sex­u­al assaults and is mak­ing head­way in pre­vent­ing them and tak­ing aggres­sive action when they occur, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Con­gress today.
Tes­ti­fy­ing before the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee about the fis­cal 2012 bud­get request, the lead­ers respond­ed to a congressman’s ques­tion about a class-action law­suit filed yes­ter­day.

A group of 17 for­mer and cur­rent ser­vice­mem­bers claimed that Gates and for­mer Defense Sec­re­tary Don­ald H. Rums­feld took inad­e­quate steps to pre­vent them from being raped, sex­u­al­ly assault­ed or sex­u­al­ly harassed.

Lim­it­ing his response in light of the law­suit, Gates said the mat­ter is of “grave con­cern” and said he has worked close­ly with Mullen and oth­er mil­i­tary lead­ers to address the issue.

“I have zero tol­er­ance for sex­u­al assault, and I’ve worked with Chair­man Mullen and the Joint Chiefs and the ser­vice sec­re­taries to see if we’re doing all we can to pre­vent and respond to sex­u­al assaults,” he said.

Gates said he has had mul­ti­ple meet­ings on the sub­ject with senior lead­ers over the past four years and estab­lished crit­i­cal areas of depart­men­tal focus. These involve reduc­ing the stig­ma asso­ci­at­ed with report­ing inci­dents, ensur­ing com­man­ders receive suf­fi­cient train­ing, and pro­vid­ing appro­pri­ate train­ing and resources to inves­ti­ga­tors and tri­al coun­sel.

“We’ve hired dozens more inves­ti­ga­tors, field instruc­tors, pros­e­cu­tors and lab exam­in­ers,” Gates told the pan­el. “We’ve spent close to $2 mil­lion over the last two years to train our pros­e­cu­tors so that they’re bet­ter able to be suc­cess­ful. We have expand­ed the sex­u­al assault response coor­di­na­tor and vic­tim advo­cates ten­fold, from 300 to 3,000.

“And we now have those advo­cates at every base and instal­la­tion in the world, includ­ing in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he added.

Gates also not­ed that the per­cent­age of alleged sex­u­al-assault offend­ers fac­ing court-mar­tial pro­ceed­ings has increased from about 30 per­cent in 2007 to 52 per­cent in 2010.

In addi­tion, defense offi­cials not­ed that the inci­dence rate of sex­u­al assault has decreased sub­stan­tial­ly. In 2006, 6.8 per­cent of women and 1.8 per­cent of men on active duty indi­cat­ed expe­ri­enc­ing some form of sex­u­al assault in the year before they were sur­veyed. Last year, that dropped to 4.4 per­cent of women and 0.9 per­cent of men.

“So we are mak­ing head­way,” Gates told the House pan­el. “The fact is, we aren’t where we should be. It is a grave con­cern, and we will keep work­ing on it.”

Mullen echoed Gates’ call for improve­ments in edu­ca­tion and a focus on lead­er­ship to address the prob­lem.

Every unit com­man­der receives sex­u­al assault pre­ven­tion and response pro­gram train­ing before tak­ing com­mand, offi­cials not­ed.

But Mullen con­ced­ed that sex­u­al assault remains an “extra­or­di­nar­i­ly dif­fi­cult issue.” He acknowl­edged that “enough anec­do­tal infor­ma­tion” has come out of Iraq and Afghanistan to be of con­cern.

The chair­man added that it’s “unac­cept­able” the depart­ment has not yet reached the point where it should be on the issue.

“We still have sig­nif­i­cant work to do,” he said. “And the lead­er­ship is focused on that.”

Nation­wide, sex­u­al assault is one of the nation’s most under­re­port­ed crimes, most like­ly because of vic­tims’ con­cerns about the stig­ma asso­ci­at­ed with the crime and loss of pri­va­cy, Pen­ta­gon spokes­woman Cyn­thia Smith said.

“It has no place in the U.S. mil­i­tary and can­not be tol­er­at­ed,” she said. “The result of these crimes degrades morale, unit cohe­sion and can affect mis­sion readi­ness.”

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →