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Pentagon fails to probe thousands of sexual assaults: GAO

By Kase Wickman
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 13:20 EDT
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The Pentagon has failed to act properly to investigate the 2,594 sexual assaults reported in 2010, a Government Accountability Office accused in a new report.

The Department of Defense Inspector General’s office is supposed to oversee all sexual assault investigations within the military, but none of the nearly 2,600 cases were passed through that office this year, the GAO said. The DOD was told to develop a policy for handling and investigating sexual assault cases in 2006, but has done none of this in the five years since.

“The Inspector General’s Office has not performed these responsibilities, primarily because it believes it has other, higher priorities,” the report read.

The Defense Department has also received extra money to implement and improve sexual assault policies and has not used it. For example, the Army was given $4.4 million specifically to redesign sexual assault policies and programs in the 2009 fiscal year, and failed to do so.

In 2006, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and other members of Congress proposed the creation of an “Office of Victim Advocate” within the DOD to specifically address and reform policy on sexual assault in the military. The Pentagon rejected the proposal.

Because the DOD has failed to create the broad sexual assault policies in the last half-decade, each branch of the military has created their own policies and procedures, leading to inconsistencies between branches. For example, each service branch has experts available for consultation during investigations of sexual assault, but only the Air Force requires that the experts are actually involved in the investigation.

In February, a group of female veterans attempted to sue the Pentagon for mishandling rape cases within the military. One of the women in the lawsuit reported being sexually harassed multiple times, and then raped by a fellow soldier. The rape was photographed. When she met with the military chaplain, “he told her that ‘it must have been God’s will for her to be raped’ and recommended that she attend church more frequently,” according to the lawsuit.

It doesn’t look like these policies are going to change anytime soon, either, according to the report.

“Senior officials in the DOD Inspector General’s Office told us that they had no plans to expand its oversight of the services’ investigative efforts, including those related to sexual assault, because they do not expect to receive any additional resources, given the current fiscal challenges of the federal government,” the report reads.

“Given that sexual assault crimes undermine the core values of the military services and degrade mission readiness, the effective and efficient administration of military justice for addressing these offenses is essential to the maintenance of good order and discipline in the armed forces, and consequently contributes to the national security of the United States.”

Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman is a reporter for Raw Story. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and grew up in Eugene, OR. Her work has been featured in The Boston Globe, Village Voice Media, The Christian Science Monitor, The Houston Chronicle and on NPR, among others. She lives in New York City and tweets from @kasewickman.
 
 
 
 
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