Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has issued a searing report declaring that sex crimes in United States’ military communities are perpetrated substantially more frequently than the Defense Department is willing to disclose. Furthermore, she contends the Pentagon has been uncooperative in responding to her requests for information regarding sexual assaults at several major military installations.
Gillibrand asserts that because assaults against civilian females who live or work close to military bases are not included in Defense Department’s surveys used to ascertain the frequency of sexual assaults among the ranks, their reports are significantly skewed.
Her analysis of 107 sexual assault cases determined the victims in over 50 percent of those cases were civilian women. Gillibrand concluded the punishments were too lenient, and, more often than not, the alleged attacker was believed over the victim. She also determined that less than one-quarter of the cases went to trial and a mere 11 ended in a conviction for a sex crime.
The Defense Department recently released its yearly report, estimating a decrease in the occurrence of sex crimes and an increase in reports by victims- indicating their faith in the military justice system.
A spokeswoman for the Defense Department, Laura Seal, stated the department lacks the authority to include civilians in its research. However, she did note that other unspecified federal surveys have documented the occurrence of sexual assault against civilian women to be no more or less than that against women with military affiliations.
Gillibrand also cited one case of multiple offenses by one airman who escaped court martial when his civilian victims suddenly lost interest in pursuing the case. He was eventually disciplined by being discharged under “other than honorable conditions.”
The senator suspects the victims were pressured into complying with that course of action.
According to Gillibrand, this and other case files are in direct opposition to statements made by the Pentagon declaring their intent to discipline more harshly those service members accused of sex crimes.
The senator also called into question the Pentagon’s unwillingness to supply her with the case files she had requested following the February 2014 Associated Press Investigation into the manner in which the U.S. military inconsistently judged sexual assaults in Japan. AP was able to ascertain that there were over 1,000 reported sex crimes perpetrated by U.S. military members stationed in Japan between 2005 and 2013 and most offenders were not incarcerated.
Gillibrand, who has long been an outspoken advocate for an overhaul of the military justice system, maintains that it will take removing commanders from the process of determining whether grievous crimes such as sexual misconduct go to trial before this issue can be addressed.