Entries in Sexual Assault (6)


Chuck Hagel to West Point Cadets: Sexual Assault Is a ‘Profound Betrayal’

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WEST POINT, N.Y.) -- Speaking at the commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told cadets that sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a “profound betrayal” and charged them with the responsibility to stamp out the sexual assault problem plaguing the military.

“You will need to not just deal with these debilitating, insidious and destructive forces but rather you must be the generation of leaders that stops it.  This will require your complete commitment to building a culture of respect and dignity for every member of the military and society,” Hagel said as he delivered the commencement address at West Point. “Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal, a profound betrayal of sacred oaths and sacred trusts.  This scourge must be stamped out.”

“We are all accountable and responsible for ensuring that this happens.  We cannot fail the Army or America.  We cannot fail each other, and we cannot fail the men and women that we lead,” he said.

Hagel’s remarks at the esteemed military academy came during the same week as a U.S. Army sergeant was accused of secretly taking dozens of photos and videotaping naked female West Point cadets over five years.

President Obama addressed the issue of sexual assault in his speech at the commencement ceremonies for the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Friday, telling the graduates that there is “no place” for sexual assaults in the military.

“We must acknowledge that even here, even in our military, we’ve seen how the misconduct of some can have effects that ripple far and wide,” Obama said at the Naval Academy commencement ceremony Friday. “Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that make our military strong.  That’s why we have to be determined to stop these crimes, because they’ve got no place in the greatest military on Earth.”

Over the past month, the military has dealt with a number of sexual assault scandals, causing military leaders and the president to speak out against the problem.

Earlier this month, the lieutenant colonel in charge of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was arrested for alleged sexual battery, and the Army  announced that the coordinator of a sexual assault prevention program at Fort Hood, Texas, was under investigation “for pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.”

The Pentagon reported this month that 26,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2012, a 37 percent increase since last year.

The figure, coupled with the recent sexual assault cases involving those charged with leading programs to prevent such incidents, led Hagel to order the retraining, re-credentialing and re-screening of all sexual assault prevention coordinators and military recruiters.

Several members of Congress have proposed legislation aiming to stop the sexual assaults occurring in the military.

Earlier this month, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill which would take the prosecution of sexual assaults in the military out of the chain of command, preventing commanders from handling the cases of their subordinates.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rep. Speier Calls Congress 'Enablers of Sexual Assault'

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On Wednesday, Lawmakers came down hard on military leaders, the morning after allegations emerged of another head of a military sexual assault prevention program engaging in the very behavior he was charged with stopping.

Late Tuesday, the Army announced that the coordinator of a sexual assault prevention program at Fort Hood, Texas, is under investigation “for pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.” He has been suspended from all duties while his case is investigated by the Army’s Criminal Investigative Command.

Rep. Jackie Speier reacted with strong words to reports of these new accusations, the week after the lieutenant colonel in charge of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was arrested for the alleged sexual battery of a woman in a parking lot near the Pentagon.

“Another sex scandal rocks the military,” she said Wednesday. “Is Congress really going to stand by and let the military handle this?”

“Congress has been an enabler of sexual assault by not demanding that these cases be taken out of the chain of command,” she added.

Rep. Speier has a bill pending in Congress that would do precisely that, called the STOP Act. Staff for Speier said the U.S. Capitol Police are investigating threats against the congresswoman.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin said these reports were evidence of “a disgraceful culture of abuse” within the armed services.

“Reports of a soldier at Fort Hood, Texas, assigned to prevent and report sexual assaults, being accused of serious sexual misconduct, abuse, and maltreatment of soldiers is reprehensible,” Sen. Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement released Wednesday. “Next week, the Army will be before my subcommittee and they will face tough questions about these accusations.”

Other lawmakers on Twitter called the Fort Hood scandal “unacceptable,” “horrific” and “v[ery] disturbing.”

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered that all of the military’s sexual assault prevention coordinators and military recruiters to be re-trained, re-credentialed and re-screened.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Army Leaders: Sequestration Could Hurt Fight Against Sexual Assault

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff have told senators that sequestration could hurt efforts to deal with sexual assaults within their branch of the military.

In a written statement submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 23, Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said the across-the-board budget cuts mandated as part of the sequester could hurt their Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program “from slowing hiring actions, to delaying lab results which hinders our ability to provide resolution for victims.”

A Defense Department study released Tuesday showed there were 3,374 reports of sexual assault made in 2012, and DOD estimated a total of 26,000 instances of unwanted sexual contact occurred.
The Army has had the highest rate of victims reporting sexual assault compared to active duty military service among the five branches, at least since 2007.

In their oral testimony in April, the Army leaders stressed the importance of working with soldiers from their first days in the service through the rest of their military careers to ensure they see sexual harassment and assault as serious problems.

“It is just about constantly talking about this problem and constantly ensuring that people understand we are going to take this seriously. And it’s as frustrating to all of us, I know, as it is to you, senator,” Gen. Odierno told Senator Kay Hagan. “I wish I had a better answer for you frankly.”

The statement from April said the Army planned to add 829 full-time military and civilian sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates to combat the problem within the branch.

Wednesday the Army Secretary told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Army faces $7.6 billion in sequestration cuts between April and September. Gen. Odierno said that in part has left them with a $13-billion budget shortfall and requested Congress delay the cuts for the Army for “later years.”

“We are sacrificing readiness to achieve reductions inside the short period of the fiscal year. And unfortunately, readiness can’t ever be bought back, because there’s a time component of readiness,” he said. “It’s just not the size of the cuts but it’s the steepness of the cuts required by sequestration, especially close in, which make it impossible to downsize the force in a deliberate, logical manner that allow us to sustain the appropriate balance between readiness, modernization and end strength.”

Army Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt told ABC News Thursday that despite sequestration, “the Army will continue provide care, support and treatment for” victims of sexual assault.

Lawmakers met with members of the Obama administration at the White House Thursday afternoon to discuss how to combat sexual assault in the military going forward.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Panetta Introduces Initiatives to Fight Sexual Assault in the Military

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon proposed initiatives Monday aimed at curtailing sexual assault in the armed forces. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the measures on Capitol Hill after closed-door meetings on the issue with members of Congress.

Calling the crime a “violation of everything that the U.S. military stands for,” Panetta said he hoped Congress would adopt the package into the 2012 defense budget.

At least one key measure will be enacted immediately by the secretary’s own executive order. Central to the proposed regulations is the elevation of the most serious reports to the attention of a Special Court Martial Convening Authority, an officer that holds at least the rank of colonel. Panetta says the heightened status would keep cases from being forgotten at the unit level.

“At the local unit level sometimes these matters are put aside, they’re not followed up with,” Panetta said. “This requires that any time a complaint is received that it is referred up the chain of command for action.”

Panetta said he plans to issue the mandate in the next few days.

In addition to new training for troops and their commanders, the proposed regulations include new centralized records of disciplinary proceedings stemming from incidents, as well as more therapeutic outlets for victims. The Pentagon will also provide investigators specially trained for dealing with assault victims and evidence collection -- what the department is calling “Special Victims Unit” capabilities.

While admitting there was no “silver bullet” to curtailing sexual assault, Panetta said responsibility for prevention lay with every service member from the top down.

“The most important thing we can do is prosecute the offenders, deal with those who have broken the law,” he said.

Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey were joined at the press conference by members of the Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus. Co-chair Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., said every lawmaker present had their own stories from military constituents.

“For me it was a nurse, someone who had served multiple times both in Iraq and in Afghanistan,” she said. “When I asked if it were true, the statistics, she said, ‘Ma’am, I am more afraid of my own soldiers than I am of the enemy.’”

Tsongas said she hoped the measures would curtail “the same alarming statistics that we hear over and over again.”

The announcement comes days after a Defense Department report indicated incidents of sexual assault in the military had risen slightly in the last year. In a report issued Friday the Pentagon said 3,192 claims involving U.S. service members as perpetrators or victims had been reported in budget year 2011, an uptick of one percent since 2010. The trend has stayed relatively the same since 2009, which saw 3,230 reports filed.

The military says 56 percent of incidents are carried out by service members against their peers. An estimated 86 percent of incidents are not reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rep. Gwen Moore Recounts Own Rape and Sexual Assault

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- As House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi urged Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act Wednesday, one of her congressional colleagues personalized the issue on the House floor by recounting her own experiences with domestic violence.

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., who joined Pelosi in introducing the legislation, said, “Violence against women is as American as apple pie.”

“Domestic violence has been a thread throughout my personal life -- up to and including being a child repeatedly sexually assaulted, up to and including being an adult who’s been raped.”

Aides close to the Democratic congresswoman say Moore was sexually molested by a family friend repeatedly as a child. Moore also says she was a victim of date rape later as a young woman, when her assailant stole her underwear to show off as a trophy to friends.

“This is what American women are facing,” Moore said. “This is not a partisan issue and it would be very, very devastating to women of all colors, creeds and sexual orientations for us not to address this.”

Pelosi underlined the “critical, life-saving support to victims of violence” that the legislation has provided over the last 18 years through funding for groups and services that help victims of domestic abuse.

“All Americans are entitled to feel safe in their workplace, in their homes, and walking on our streets,” Pelosi said. “Yet too many women continue to live in fear, and that is why we must reauthorize and strengthen and pass the Violence Against Women Act.”

Democrats failed a short time later Wednesday afternoon in a procedural stunt to attach reauthorization to a vote on the Republican budget blueprint.

Pelosi said that since the bill was first signed into law by President Clinton, the legislation “has strengthened communities” by reducing violence against women.

“This law has helped ensure that more victims report domestic violence to the police, that the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has been decreased by 53 percent, in that period of time,” she said. “Rape crisis centers have been able to keep their doors open [and] law enforcement and victims’ services providers are working together to better meet the needs of victims.”

Opponents of the bill object to provisions that make federal grants to domestic violence organizations subject to their ability to prove they do not discriminate against homosexual and transgender victims.  They complain that on Native American reservations, it shifts authority of tribal courts over domestic violence matters with non-tribal aggressors. They also object that it provides additional visas for battered undocumented women who agree to cooperate with law enforcement.

“Unfortunately violence is not limited to just Democrats or just Republicans or just blacks or just whites,” Moore, the Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Women’s Caucus, said. “It’s not limited to heterosexual relationships, but there are relationships of all kinds that are exposed to domestic violence.”

Currently, local tribal authorities say they struggle to prosecute domestic abuse cases of Native American women who are married to non-Native American men because they don’t have the force of law over non-tribe members.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House, declined to comment directly on the Democrats’ proposal, but told reporters that there is bipartisan support for a reauthorization of the legislation, and House Republicans will move forward with their own version before current funding expires.

“The issues that were raised in the Senate did not deal with the underlying bill itself,” McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said. “You’re going to find that there is bipartisan support for the bill.”

The law was first reauthorized by Congress in 2000, and again in December 2005. Authorization expired Sept. 30 last year but money that was disbursed before the program expired has been used to cover the current fiscal year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Congress to Probe Peace Corps Rape Allegations

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images/ PeaceCorps [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- Republican lawmakers said Thursday they will conduct hearings into allegations that women who worked for the Peace Corps were routinely raped and sexually assaulted, then given little help by the agency to deal with the trauma.

The planned hearings were spurred by an ABC News-20/20 investigation into accusations of over one thousand American women who were raped and attacked over the past ten years.

The 20/20 report featured interviews with some of the women who claimed to have been brutalized while working for the Peace Corps in foreign countries.  They said the agency's culture is one that blames the victim, often asking them what they did to cause the attacks.

Congressman Ted Poe of Texas expressed both fury and sadness after having watched the 20/20 report and called for a hearing.

Vowing to be an advocate for the women, Poe said, "The Peace Corps needs to get its act together and make sure the victims of rape have peace of mind when they are serving the United States."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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