WASHINGTON — A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee told a
high-ranking Pentagon official Wednesday that the number of sexual assaults in
the military "cannot continue."
"We chose this important and troubling subject for the first meeting of the
personnel subcommittee this year in order to underscore our deep concern about
the problem of violence against women in the Armed Forces," Sen. Saxby
Chambliss, R-Ga., said. "The information we have received, in interviews with
victims, as reflected in news accounts, reports from the services … describe
shocking percentages of sexual assaults suffered by women in uniform. This
The U.S. military has fallen short in providing victims of sexual assault —
particularly those in combat zones — the medical and counseling care they need,
David Chu, the under secretary for Personnel and Readiness, said Wednesday.
"Right now, our principal focus of review is how we care for the victims. …
We need to improve care to the victims," Chu told members of the Personnel
Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "We believe this is
where we have the greatest distance to go."
The subcommittee lawmakers called for the hearing following a string of
reports of sexual assaults and harassment cases coming out of
Iraq and Kuwait —
cases in which alleged perpetrators were U.S. military personnel.
Following the media reports, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld directed Chu
to launch an investigation into how sexual assault victims are treated and
review the department's and service's policies on sexual assault and victim
treatment. His memo led to the creating of a 10-member task force that will
submit a report to Chu by April 30.
Military leaders from each of the services testifying Wednesday told Congress
of a combined 112 alleged cases of sexual assault occurring in the Central
Command region over the past 14 months:
Eighty-six cases in the Army, of which court-martial proceedings have begun
in 14 of them. Investigations have been completed in half of the 86, said Gen.
George Casey Jr., vice chief of staff.
Twelve cases in the Navy, most of which happened in Bahrain, said Vice Adm.
Michael Mullen, vice chief of Naval Operations. Six cases were dropped for lack
of evidence or because victims did not want to come forward, one resulted in a
court-martial still under way, and five are under investigation.
Eight cases in Air Force, dating back to Sept. 11, 2001. Two cases involved
assaults by non-Americans and host nations have retained jurisdiction, Moseley
said. Of the remaining six, commanders tried one by court-martial, two were
handled through administrative action, one was dismissed after the commander
conducted an Article 32 investigation, one investigation was just completed and
is awaiting command action, and in the remaining case was dropped after
determined to be unfounded, he said.
Six cases in the Marine Corps, of which two resulted in courts-martial and
four are under investigation.
While the short-term focus is on victim assistance, long-term goals will
better develop prevention programs to keep members from being victimized to
For example, as of December, the Marine Corps provides and training programs
to all officers, and beginning March 1, will give similar training to all
enlisted Marines at recruit schools, said Assistant Commandant Gen. William
The Navy has recorded success with its Sexual Assault Victim Intervention, or
SAVI, program that heavily focuses on prevention education and getting
advocates out to the victims, Mullen said. It's a program that piqued the
interest of Army leaders, who might adopt it, Casey said.
While the Army has victim advocates stationed in Iraq, six of them to be
exact, all are at the division levels and not easily accessible to victims in
remote areas, Casey said.
At the hearing, Chu unveiled results of the "Armed Forces 2002 Sexual
Harassment Survey," which reflects a decrease in reports of sexual assaults by
women from 6 percent in 1995 to 3 percent in 2002, the last dates for which
survey were done.
Despite this, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., criticized him for taking two years to
issue the report. "Why would it take two years to [release] the survey," Warner
boomed, waving a copy. "It should have been addressed long before two years."
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