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Defense Secretary Should Get Serious on Sexual Assault

September 28, 2012
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This article, published in the Defense Department's Armed Forces Press Service, reports more hand-wringing about the chronic problem of sexual assault in the military:

As CMR reported in April, this problem is getting worse, not better.

Panetta noted societal problems, such as alcohol, and called for more of the usual  preventative measures, adding this:  All of those factors lead to “a situation where you can have this kind of power game,” he said. “Where people are put into vulnerable positions, and it all plays out. It plays out in society, and it plays out in the military.”

The most vulnerable group of women in the military are those in basic training.  Young female trainees, often away from home for the first time, are subject to the authority of drill instructors who often use their power to take advantage.  Witness what has happened at Lackland AFB recently, and at Aberdeen and other Army bases in the past.  Some cases have been found to be consensual but exploitive, but "consexploitation" in basic training always is wrong. 

Instead of sending women who say they were abused to another military base, where isolated newcomers are even less secure and safe, Secretary Panetta should show serious resolve by putting an end to co-ed basic training in all the services, and retaining separate-gender training in the Marine Corps.  He should also provide more resources to prosecuting attorneys with instructions that they protect rights of due process at all times. 

Finally, Secretary Panetta should stop making politically correct statements suggesting that more women in high-level positions would solve the problem.  Women deserve promotions at all levels, but  Panetta is implementing recommendations of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission.  The MLDC wants to force enlisted women into direct ground combat (infantry) battalions so that other women can ascend to three- or four-star rank. 

The misguided drive for women in combat implies  that abuse of women is wrong, unless it happens at the hands of the enemy.  Instead of wringing hands, Pentagon officials should consider some consistency when expressing a desire to "protect" women.

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