Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America

Jewish War Veterans Calls for Coordinated Control Over Sexual Abuse in the Military

Spring 2013

Washington, DC – The Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV) condemns the continued prevalence of reported and unreported male and female sexual misconduct in the military and calls for an independent process to review and prosecute these cases.

Because the military is a contained unit, it is possible for service members to be victimized and abused if there are not proper controls in place. Decision making, treatment, and prosecution should be under one umbrella for all types of unwanted sexual contact, from sexual harassment to rape.

It is clear that the current system in place to prevent unwanted sexual contact is failing. There must be an intervention in the military justice system by a single third-party entity. On this issue, the more is not the merrier!

The Pentagon’s own numbers on unwanted sexual contact in the military are extremely alarming; although, we feel they are seriously understated. Through anonymous surveying, the Pentagon estimates that there were 26,000 victims of unwanted sexual contact in 2012. This is a 35 percent rise from 2010 when there were an estimated 19,300 victims. The vast majority of these cases were unreported, and of the 3,374 reported cases in 2012 only 3,000 resulted in charges. Fewer than 1 in 10 sexual assault courts-martial produced convictions.

According to the Pentagon’s survey, unwanted sexual contact affected 6.1 percent of female and 1.2 percent of male active duty service members in 2012. In the Military Reserve, 2.8 percent of women and 0.5 percent of men experienced unwanted sexual contact.

Broken down by service branch, unwanted sexual contact was experienced by:

  • Army:                  7.1 percent of women; 0.8 percent of men
  • Navy:                  7.2 percent of women; 2.7 percent of men
  • Marine Corps:    10.1 percent of women; 1.1 percent of men
  • Air Force:           3.1 percent of women; 0.5 percent of men

Rank was a factor in whether or not a woman experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012:

  • E1-E4:                9.1 percent of women
  • E5-E9:                3.9 percent of women
  • O1-O3:               3.9 percent of women
  • O4-O6:               0.9 percent of women

Of the total number of active duty service members affected by unwanted sexual contact:

  • 38 percent of women and 17 percent of men indicated the offender was someone of higher rank/grade who was not in their chain of command.
  • 25 percent of women and 27 percent of men indicated the offender was within their chain of command.
  • 5 percent of women and 13 percent of men indicated the offender was a Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employee.
  • 4 percent of women and 12 percent of men indicated the offender was a DoD civilian contractor.

Women currently make up 15 percent of the US military, they are integral to its continued operations; and yet, many of them may be asked to work in an environment where they have to fear becoming a victim of sexual abuse. The shields protecting abusers must be removed.

For service members who experience unwanted sexual contact, the long-term effects can be devastating, and it can be a risk factor for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and homelessness.

Over the past 25 years, the government has setup commissions, task forces, and studies to review the issue of unwanted sexual contact. The problem has continued because of a lack of real oversight, accountability, and the legitimate fears of reprisal. Until the response to this issue is taken outside the chain of command, and there is an independent process to review these cases, unwanted sexual contact will continue unrestrained to plague the military.

The current failure and incompetence of the military justice system in handling these crimes is evident in the case of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson who was found guilty of aggravated sexual assault by a panel of five military officers in November 2012. In February, US Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin tossed out Wilkerson’s sexual assault conviction without explanation.

Senior commanders must never have the final authority in the courts-martial process for these cases. The system is broken if, for no explanation, the commander is able to grant clemency, pardon, or acquittal to sexual offenders. Actions like those taken by Lt. Gen. Franklin reduce the likelihood of victims coming forward to seek justice and send a message that this behavior will be tolerated.

Under current military law, the victim has no recourse to appeal this decision for clemency – no alternate way to ensure that his or her attacker pays for their crime. Victims should have the opportunity to receive the same due process as civilians.

There must be oversight for the individuals entrusted with the military’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response units. These service members are responsible for creating a safe environment for the victims of sexual assault after the crime.

The recent allegations of sexual battery against the Air Force’s chief sexual assault prevention officer, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, raise concerns over whether these programs are effectively educating service members about sexual trauma and are properly responding to victims.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered initiatives, including holding commanders accountable for creating an environment where unwanted sexual contact is not permitted, reducing barriers and stigma for reporting sexual assault, and enhancing prevention and training programs.

Ordering initiatives is not enough. It must be clear that leadership will be held accountable and that the punishments for this crime will be severe and career ending as required.

In order to properly carry out their missions, the men and women who serve in America’s Armed Forces need to be able to do their duty without worrying about unwanted sexual contact.

For those who are victims of these crimes, they need to be able to report these incidents without fear of reprisal. We will be unable to bring an end to this problem until all levels of military leadership understand that this behavior will not be tolerated and must be criminalized for both the military and civilians.

About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America

Founded in 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is one of the oldest active veterans’ organizations in America. JWV is dedicated to upholding America’s democratic traditions and fighting bigotry, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination of all kinds. As a national organization, JWV represents the voice of America’s Jewish veterans on issues related to veterans’ benefits, foreign policy, and national security. JWV also commits itself to the assistance of oppressed Jews worldwide.


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