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November 2, 2013

VETERANS’ CORNER: Report details sexual abuse against women in military

By JIM VINES

A female soldier is groped inside a barracks, another in a base supply room, a third on a shooting range. A sailor is molested by her defensive tactics instructor and a Marine lance corporal is raped by a gunnery sergeant, who’s also a recruiter.

These are examples of thousands of cases detailed in a searing 1,500-page report by the Pentagon on pervasive sexual abuse against women in the U.S. military. The report estimates a rate of about 500 women were assaulted per week in 2012. The scandal continues to unfold in an embarrassing public manner, each a new chapter confirming the report’s finding that the abusive culture is endemic.

The Army has revealed that Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen, who was responsible for assault prevention at Fort Hood, Texas, is under investigation for allegedly forcing another soldier into prostitution and assaulting two others. He is the second sexual assault prevention officer in two weeks linked to abuse. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the chief sexual assault prevention officer for the Air Force, was arrested recently for allegedly groping a woman in an Arlington, Va., parking lot. Last week, investigations were conducted into whether Marines created a Facebook page portraying female Marines in vulgar and degrading photographs and comments. Commanders are still considering actions on the site being taken down.

If the Pentagon’s estimates are correct, more than 20,000 troops declined to report what happened to them last year. Nearly half the women feared retribution and being labeled a “troublemaker” if they reported their incidents. It’s a wonder, considering those available to help are some of the instigators causing the problems.

USA Today interviewed lawmakers, social scientists and people who have worked on the sexual assault issues inside the military to determine why the Pentagon hasn’t been able to stem this predatory tide. All information pointed to two factors; one a new plague, the other as old as the military itself. The plague is the proliferation of violence toward women in films and video games,which recruits are bringing in with them. The other, a military justice system with origins dating to the Revolutionary War that gives commanders of accused troops ultimate power over legal proceedings.

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