By Dara Sharif
This time, it’s the Army.
A sergeant working as a sexual-assault prevention coordinator at Fort Hood, Texas, is being investigated on charges of abusive sexual contact and running a prostitution ring, authorities say.
The sergeant’s name is not being released because he has yet to be formally charged. But a Pentagon official, speaking anonymously to The New York Times, says he is suspected of managing a prostitution operation, perhaps involving a subordinate.
The investigation is the latest regarding sexual abuses in a military that critics charge has a culture of sexual harassment, abuse and assault. Last week, an Air Force officer in charge of a sexual-assault prevention program was arrested after he allegedly groped a woman in a parking lot. The Pentagon also released a report that revealed that sexual assaults in the armed forces last year had risen more than 35 percent since 2010.
In the Air Force case, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, is accused of grabbing the breasts and buttocks of a woman in a parking lot before she was able to get away and call police. Arlington County (Va.) police arrested Krusinski on a charge of sexual battery. At the time of his arrest, Krusinski was chief of the Air Force’s sexual-assault prevention and response branch.
News of Krusinski’s arrest followed demands by advocates of military rape survivors for the ouster of an Air Force general who threw out a colonel’s sexual-assault conviction earlier this year.
In an open letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders, demanded Lieutenant General Craig Franklin’s ouster for his role in overturning the conviction by court martial of Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson, an F-16 pilot and former Inspector General at Aviano Air Base in Italy. Wilkerson had been found guilty of sexually touching a guest at his home last year while she slept.
“Tragically, the depth of the sexual-assault problem in our military was already overwhelmingly clear before this latest highly disturbing report,” Senator Carl Levin, D., Mich., and chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters in a statement.
Last month, the Defense Department issued new policies it hoped would enable it to better enforce its “zero tolerance” of sexual assaults. But military commanders still have the ability to overturn convictions, a practice long criticized by advocates and congressional critics like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
In the wake of the latest sexual-abuse investigation out of the Army, Gillibrand says she will present new legislation this week that would remove the military chain-of-command’s input into the prosecution of sexual-abuse crimes.
“To say this report is disturbing would be a gross understatement,” Gillibrand, D., N.Y., told reporters. “For the second time in a week we are seeing someone who is supposed to be preventing sexual assault being investigated for committing that very act.”
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