The top commander in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) suggested on Tuesday that the rise in reported sexual assaults against military service members was caused by a more permissive social climate, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Some of it is the hookup mentality of junior high even and high school students now, which my children can tell you about from watching their friends and being frustrated by it," Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said at a Senate hearing on the issue.

Welsh said that "roughly 20 percent" of women in both the Air Force and the Defense Department reported being sexually assaulted before joining.

Welsh's remarks came amid not only the release of a Pentagon study showing more than 70 sexual assaults commited per day against miltary members, but the arrest of Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, the USAF's Chief of Sexual Assault Prevention, on sexual battery charges and the surfacing of a "prevention and response" brochure saying, "it may be advisable" for airmen being raped to submit to their attackers.

The statements were criticized by Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for sexual assault victims who serve in the military.

"General Welsh should know that the solution lies in reform of the military justice system and culture of misogyny, victim blaming and failure to prosecute perpetrators," the group's president, Nancy Parrish, said in a release. "It is a problem that requires leadership, not blaming the troops as an excuse."

The group said it had contacted prosecutors in Arlington, Texas, where Krusinski was arrested, and urged them to deny the USAF's request to have his case transferred to a military court. In March 2013, Secretary of State Chuck Hagel ordered a review of the overturned sexual assault conviction of another USAF officer, Lt. Col. James Wilkerson. A senior commander, Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, said the evidence against Wilkerson was not enough to justify the original verdict. Military regulations allow Franklin to not have to explain his reasoning.

[Image by Jim Greenhill via Flickr Creative Commons]

[h/t Feministing]