Military sex-abuse crisis hits new low in Fort Hood investigation

For the second time in two weeks, a military official tasked with combating sex assault has been accused of sexual assault. All military sex assault counselors must now undergo retraining.

Evan Vucci/AP/File
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a joint news conference at the Pentagon, last month. Hagel has ordered the retraining of every person in the US military who works in sexual assault prevention.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the retraining of every person in the US military who works in sexual assault prevention.

This order comes in the wake of news that an Army sergeant who was a sexual assault response coordinator in Fort Hood, Texas, is under investigation for sexual assault.

While no charges have yet been filed, the soldier has been removed from his post, suspected of “pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault, and maltreatment of subordinates,” according to an Army statement, which does not name the suspect.

The soldier is also suspected of being involved in a prostitution ring, says a congressional staffer familiar with the case.

Secretary Hagel directed the “retraining, re-credentialing, and re-screening” of all sexual assault prevention officers.

In the meantime, the Defense secretary “is looking urgently at every course of action to stamp out this deplorable conduct and ensure that those individuals up and down the chain of command who tolerate or engage in this behavior are appropriately held accountable,” said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers once again expressed outrage over the second high-profile sexual assault scandal in as many weeks among military members tasked with preventing the crime.

“I see no meaningful distinction between complacency or complicity in the military’s latest failure to uphold their own standards of conduct,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R) of California, who has a granddaughter in the Army.

“Nor do I see a distinction between the service member who orchestrated this offense and the chain of command that was either oblivious or tolerant of criminal behavior.”

Lawmakers also vowed action. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) of New York is proposing legislation this week to remove chain of command influences from prosecution of these offenses.

In the wake of the scandal last week involving Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, a sexual assault response coordinator who was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman in a parking lot, Rep. Niki Tsongas (D) of Massachusetts introduced legislation in the House to do the same. The bill also creates minimum sentences for those charged with sexual assault, as well as to expand legal assistance services available to military sexual assault victims.

A congressionally-mandated Pentagon report released last week found that more than 26,000 US troops reported an episode of “unwanted sexual contact,” up from 19,300 in 2010.

Despite these figures, only 3,374 reported the crime last year. Victims who experience the crime but do not report it say that fear of reprisal and a belief that the perpetrator will not be punished are the top reasons why they don’t move forward with prosecution.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh emphasized the Army’s concern with the problem. “As I said to our new brigadier general corps when I spoke to them about two weeks ago, ‘You can do everything from this point forward in your military career perfectly, but if you fail on this, you have failed the Army.’ ”

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