Officials angered by military sex case

2013-05-15 22:11
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Washington - US lawmakers say they are outraged that for the second time this month, a member of the armed forces assigned to help prevent sexual assaults in the military, is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct.

In the latest case, an army sergeant first class at Fort Hood, Texas, is facing allegations involving three women, including that he may have arranged for one of them to have sex for money, according to a defence official.

The official said it was not yet clear if the sergeant, who has not been named, forced the woman into what may have been prostitution.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly about the matter, said that the sergeant is also being investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting one of the other two women.

The allegations involving the third woman were not known.

Rising problem

The case, along with another one involving an Air Force officer, highlights a problem that is drawing increased scrutiny in Congress and expressions of frustration from Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel. Lawmakers said it was time for Hagel to get tough with the military brass.

"This is sickening. Twice now, in a matter of as many weeks, we've seen the very people charged with protecting victims of sexual assault being charged as perpetrators," Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat, said.

"It's an astonishing reminder that the Pentagon has both a major problem on its hands and a tremendous amount of work to do to assure victims - who already only report a small fraction of sexual assaults - that they are changing the culture around these heinous crimes.

"Secretary Hagel needs to act swiftly to re-examine sexual assault services across the department to ensure that these disturbing betrayals of trust are ended," Murray said.

Prevention

Hagel said he was directing all the services to retrain, re-credential and rescreen all sexual assault prevention and response personnel and military recruiters, his spokesperson, George Little, said after Tuesday's announcement that the army sergeant was accused of pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.

The soldier was being investigated by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. No charges had been filed, but officials say they expect them fairly soon.

The Pentagon is struggling with what it calls a growing epidemic of sexual assaults across the military.

In a report last week, the defence department estimated that as many as 26 000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, based on survey results.

Of those, fewer than 3 400 reported the incident, and nearly 800 of them simply sought help but declined to file formal complaints against their alleged attackers.

Read more on:    chuck hagel  |  us

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