Friday, May 10, 2013

Military leaders arenít taking sexual abuse seriously


When the military top brass is serious about something all the way up and down the chain of command, everyone is clear. Violating rules or overlooking subordinates who allow rules to be broken means careers come to a screeching halt.
    Last week, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the officer responsible for leading the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team, was himself arrested and charged with misdemeanor sexual battery in which he allegedly groped a woman whom he did not know in a parking lot.
    This man had been vetted to be the best person for this assignment.
    Has the Air Force really been serious about bringing sexual harassment and abuse to an end? Clearly, the answer is no.
    According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh’s testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in January, Air Force commanders have discretion in deciding whether to include episodes of sexual harassment on the service records of Air Force personnel. He said people could be transferred from one base to another without any record of episodes of such harassment following them.
    Welsh can ask all he wants, as he did then, “Why, on the worst day of their life, don’t women who have been assaulted come forward?”
    Take a guess, General. Who is more likely to come through an episode of sexual assault or abuse unscathed, a colonel or a private?
    Senior commanders can claim all they want, as some have, that the broader culture is responsible for the failings of the system to end abuse. No worries, they claim, because sexual harassment will be dealt with swiftly and decisively.
    It is now perfectly clear that little in the military system makes women feel secure. The upper echelons of senior officers complain that women do not tell if they have been sexually harassed. These senior officers, however, seem more concerned with finding an excuse than a solution.
    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y) gets it. “To dismiss violent rapes as part of the hook-up culture shows a complete lack of understanding,” she said. Those who hold the essentially unchallenged power of military command have not begun to understand what having no power is like.
    With three of the six Senate Armed Services Subcommittees now led by women, sexual abuse by military personnel may soon not be treated so cavalierly.
    The Air Force and the other branches of the service will finally have to acknowledge that there is no section of the Uniform Code of Military Justice entitled, “Boys will be boys.”




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