USA Today reports that the push for examining the U.S. armed services for sexual assault cases has given the U.S. Army cause for disqualifying 588 sexual assault counselors, recruiters, and drill sergeants.
The perpetrators have been accused of conduct ranging from sexual assault to child abuse to drunken driving. The positions that have been targeted are the so-called “positions of trust,” and the 588 suspects are more than ten times the number suspended by the Army last summer in their initial review. The Army later perused the records of 20,000 more soldiers to raise the total number of suspects to 588.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called for the review in May when there was evidence from a Pentagon study that incidents of unwanted sexual contact had grown 35% from 2010 to 2012. Hagel’s spokesman, John Kirby, said Hagel has “been exceedingly clear about the need to continue stamping out sexual assault from our ranks. He was happy to learn that the Army widened the scope of their review and he is grateful for the work they have done to get a better grip on a very difficult issue and hold people accountable.”
Col. Tom Collins, an Army spokesman, said that 79 of the soldiers will be forced to leave the Army; others will face punitive action from their commanders. Army spokesman Col. David Patterson, a spokesman, said, “We will continue working to better ensure we select the very best people for these posts, and that the chain of command knows what is expected of them, and how important this work is to the Army.”
Two proposals from Senate Democrats are on the table regarding sexual assault in the military: Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York proposes to give the cases of sexual assault to career military prosecutors instead of military commanders, while Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri wants to let the commanders oversee the cases but will not let them overturn convictions.
Gillibrand said, “These continued reports paint a very clear picture of why nine out of 10 sexual assault victims don’t report their attack and why the military needs a reformed, independent and transparent system of justice.” McCaskill echoed, “The Army’s review of soldiers responsible for combating sexual assault was an important step in our effort to curb sexual assaults in the military.”
The Navy’s review of its members yielded three of 5,125 recruiters being disqualified and two of 4,739 counselors, with no recruit instructors marked for disqualification. The Air Force and Marine Corps reported that there were no cases of sexual assault to be found.