For the second time in two weeks, a soldier assigned to an assault prevention program in a branch of the U.S. military has himself been implicated in a sexual assault crime.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday night that an unnamed sergeant in the Army has been arrested and accused of pandering–a charge of prostitution solicitation, or pimping–abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates. Acccording to the report, the sergeant was an equal opportunity adviser and coordinator of a sexual harassment-assault prevention program at the Army’s 3rd Corps headquarters at Fort Hood, Texas. He has been suspended from his duties, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered an investigation.
The accusation comes just over one week after the sexual-battery arrest of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who had been heading the Air Force’s sexual-assault prevention branch for just two months. According to police, Krusinski was intoxicated when he grabbed the breasts and buttocks of a woman in a Virginia parking lot. Krusinski, once called a “good choice” for the job by his superiors, will stand trial in July, and faces one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
On Saturday’s Melissa Harris-Perry, the host spoke to Rep. Jackie Speier and other guests about the Air Force incident and the epidemic of sexual assault. The Congresswoman from California offered a bit of cautious optimism that the Krusinski allegations would be a “turning point” in how the Pentagon handles sexual assault cases. “The problem is that the military continues to want to follow the same path, which is we’ll do lots of training, we`ll do lots of prevention, much of which you talked to in your letter to Secretary Hagel–but we`re really not going to change anything.”
Harris-Perry noted that shortly after Krusinski’s arrest, the Pentagon released a new report that indicated that there may have been approximately 7,000 more service members who experienced some kind of unwanted sexual contact in 2012 than in 2010–26,000 in total.
Anu Bhagwati, a retired Marine captain and the founder and executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, offered that the rape culture within the military is aided by its own structure, and by the inaction of outside forces which could bring pressure to bear. “The military today is still an insular and insulated system, where there is very little oversight from either Congress, the White House, even the courts,” Bhagwati said on Saturday. “There’s a continuous deference that all of these institutions have given to the military over decades. And so you just don’t see progress within the institution. You see that the military is about a couple of generations behind where the civilian world is on sexual assault and sex crimes.”
An example of that culture Bhagwati described is manifest in an Air Force brochure on sexual assault which Wired writer Spencer Ackerman discovered. Among other behavioral modifications encouraged to women to help themselves avoid an attack, the brochure tells women to “submit” to their attackers. “Why are we asking women not to be raped, rather than asking men not to rape?” asked feminist organizer Shelby Knox during Saturday’s discussion.
During the Saturday panel discussion, Bhagwati encouraged a legislative or legal remedy to a cultural problem–and in response to the Pentagon report and the Krusinski arrest, Congress quickly set in motion two bipartisan bills, with the expectation of another from Senators Kirsten Gillbrand and Barbara Boxer this week.
Reporting has been added to this article since its original posting. See more coverage of the Army arrest on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” and video of Saturday’s “MHP” discussion above and below.