Last week, President Obama addressed the issue bluntly. “The bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this,” he said. “If we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”
Well, it’s not happening. And the main reason is that sexual assault is part of the military culture.
Since the president made that statement, I would have expected to see thousands of service members accused and put on notice of potential firings and courts-martial. Instead, we keep finding out about one incident after another from media reports.
I come from a military family. I understand the principle of following orders. When your commander in chief tells you to do something, you do it. But no tolerance seems to mean nothing to these sexual predators. Where are the thousands of people who are perpetrating these acts? Why are they still in the military? Why aren’t a lot of them in jail?
It seems that the military thinks it does not have to be held to the same standards as civilians when it comes to sexual assault. The Catholic Church, with its lineup of sexual-predator priests, has the same view. How many priests have been jailed?
Last week we learned that the head of the Air Force assault prevention program, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, was accused of groping a woman. Were there no hints about this guy? Now we learn that a sergeant first class whose job it is to handle sexual assault cases at Fort Hood in Texas is under criminal investigation. The complaint? That he abused women and possibly set one up for prostitution. This would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is rapidly becoming a heroine for her work on the Senate Armed Services Committee and is the first senator to hold hearings on the subject of sexual assault in 10 years, is also beyond outraged. She took on a group of generals in a hearing last week, nearly gasping with fury at their attitude on the subject.
The most appalling statement came from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh. “Roughly 20 percent of the young women who come into the Department of Defense and Air Force report they were sexually assaulted in some way before they came into the military,” he said. “So they come in from a society where this occurs. SOME OF IT IS THE HOOK-UP MENTALITY OF JUNIOR HIGH, EVEN, AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS NOW, WHICH MY CHILDREN CAN TELL YOU ABOUT FROM WATCHING THEIR FRIENDS AND BEING FRUSTRATED BY IT.” (Capitalization added by Gillibrand’s office in an e-mail sent to me.)
“The same demographic group moves into the military,” Welsh said. “We have got to change the culture once they arrive. The way they behave, the way they treat each other, cannot be outside the bounds of what is, we consider, inclusive and respectful.”