According Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, the military sex crime epidemic may be even larger and more prevalent than once thought. According to the Associated Press, the senator has come out this week in an interview with critical remarks for Defense Department, who she claims has not only largely denied her requests for military records, but has provided incomplete data.
In early 2014, Gillibrand, who had led the Senate Armed Services Committee personnel panel at the time, took note of the military's odd handling of sexual assault cases in Japan where prison time was never sentenced. She then requested sex crime records for four major military bases from the Defense Department, spanning 2009-2014. It took her 10 months to receive just a mere 107 cases from 2013.
In the 107 cases, Senator Gillibrand reports the following:
- Less than a quarter of cases went to trial.
- More than half the cases included female civilian victims.
- Frequently, the word of the alleged assailant was trusted over the victim's.
Not only does Gillibrand believe that even the 2013 information from each base is incomplete, but also cites a major reporting discrepancy: spouses of service members and civilian women are not included in Defense Department surveys used to determine the prevalence of sex crimes. In cases she did find, she reports that suspicious recanting by the alleged victims was common-- as was the case of suspected airman who allegedly raped three women.
"It's frustrating because you look at the facts in these cases and you see witnesses willing to come forward, getting the medical exam and either eventually withdrawing their case or the investigators deciding that her testimony wasn't valid or believable," Gillibrand said.
A CONTINUED LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
Senator Gillibrand's critique comes at critical time for the U.S. military, which, in the last year, has been scrambling to correct what many lawmakers and advocates deem a troubling sex abuse culture within the ranks. Last week the Defense Department reported progress in combating the issue, but the senator still wants access to sex abuse statistics she initially requested.
A spokesman for the Defense Department has called Gillibrand's request for five years of reports "extraordinary," and clarified that the agency does not have the authority to include civilian women in its sex abuse surveys. Senator Gillibrand remains unconvinced. "I don't think the military is being honest about the problem," she said in an interview.
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