Washington, D.C.-The military has been grappling with the problem of sexual harassment and assault within their ranks and a recent review has resulted in the suspension of 60 soldiers, sexual assault counselors and recruiters.
In May, a report revealed that close to 26,000 members of the military admitted to being sexually assaulted or harassed in 2012. The sexual misconducted ranged from groping to rape, according to the USA Today.
After this damning report, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of military personnel records in an effort to combat this serious problem. On average, one in three military women will face some form of sexual abuse. In contrast, one in six civilian women will be subjected to sexual abuses.
According to the military, 35,000 troops were reviewed. Background checks revealed that 60 service members had previous violations ranging from sexual assault and child abuse to alcohol-related violations.
The majority of suspended soldiers were from the Army with 55 overall dismissals. The Navy dismissed three recruiters and two counselors.
Suspending the soldiers indicates the military is taking the issue of sexual assault seriously, but there are still questions about their screening process.
According to USA Today, each branch interpreted Hagel’s orders differently. While the Army screened soldiers’ criminal records for sexual assault, child abuse and alcohol-related offenses, the Marines examined only recruiters against a public sex offender database.
The Air Force and Marines have not suspended any of their troops.
The differing interpretations would explain the disparities in the number of suspensions among the different branches.
The reviews are ongoing and an indication that the military is taking sexual misconduct seriously, but some advocates see it as a sign that military still has a problem and is a long way from solving the issue.
It is unclear if the suspended soldiers were discharged from the military or moved to different posts.
“It’s clear that the military wasn’t properly screening the people it assigned to these specialized billets or responsibilities which demonstrates yet another example of failure by self-regulation,” Taryn Meeks said, executive director for Protect Our Defenders, a victim advocacy group said.
The May report coincided with a number of sexual assault scandals involving high-ranking personnel. Prior to the release of the report a lieutenant colonel for the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was arrested for groping a woman outside a bar.
Then less than a week later, an Army sergeant in charge of Fort Hood’s sexual assault prevention program was arrested for suspicion of sexual assault and running a small prostitution ring.
Lawmakers were outraged by the report and the arrests of sexual assault counselors and called military leaders to Capitol Hill to explain what their plans for combating the problem. The reviews are just one step, but will
Some lawmakers are not convinced that the military will deal with sexual assault and harassment problem on their own and have introduced legislation that would help curtail the pervasive problem and take prosecutions of military members accused of sexual assault or rape out of the hands of military courts.