Female senators lashed out at top military brass on Tuesday following a damning Pentagon report on sexual assault and the arrest of U.S. Air Force sex abuse prevention officer.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) pressed the military leaders to explain why unit commanders should have the power to handle the prosecution and investigation of sexual assault cases.
“This is a regard in which there is clearly insufficient training, insufficient understanding,” Gillibrand said. “If the man in charge for the Air Force of preventing sexual assault is being alleged to have committed a sexual assault this weekend, obviously there is a failing in training and understanding of what sexual assault is and how corrosive and damaging it is to good order and discipline — and how it is undermining the credibility of the greatest military force in the world. This is not good enough.”
She told Gen. Mark Welsh, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, that many female victims refused to report sexual assaults because they had no faith in the chain of command. Gillibrand said sexual assault cases should be handled by trained prosecutors, since commanders had overturned verdicts in the past.
“Imagine you are the assaulted victim who has just gone through a trial, and because a commanding officer has said, ‘Let’s overturn the jury’s verdict,’ you then have to salute the person who assaulted you,” she added.
McCaskill also questioned Welsh over Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, the sexual-assault prevention officer arrested for allegedly drunkenly attacking a woman in a parking lot. Welsh assured McCaskill that nothing in Krusinski’s background indicated the officer had any problems.
“You have got a wealth of people in the Air Force that understand what this job has to be and if this allegation is proved true this was not someone who understood what this job was about,” McCaskill said, vowing to keep an eye on the situation.