Sexual assaults in the military are a growing epidemic across the services, and thousands of victims are still unwilling to come forward despite a slew of new oversight and assistance programs, according to Pentagon documents.
Troubling new numbers estimate that up to 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, according to survey results released against a backdrops of scandals including an ongoing investigation into more than 30 Air Force instructors for assaults on trainees at a Texas base
The report comes just days after the Air Force’s head of sexual assault prevention was arrested last weekend on charges of groping a woman in a suburban Virginia parking lot. And it follows a heated debate over whether commanders should be stripped of the authority to overturn military jury verdicts, such as one officer did in a recent sexual-assault conviction.
President Barack Obama delivered a sharp rebuke Tuesday, saying he has no tolerance for the problem, and he said he talked to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about it. He said that any military member found guilty of sexual assault should be held accountable, prosecuted and fired.
“I don’t want just more speeches or awareness programs or training, or ultimately folks look the other way,” he said. “We’re going to have to not just step up our game; we have to exponentially step up our game to go after this hard.”