For the third time in ten days, a U.S. military officer leading his branch’s sexual assault prevention efforts has been accused of misbehavior.
The Associated Press reported Thursday night that Lt. Col. Darin Haas, the manager of the prevention program at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, turned himself into police on charges of stalking his ex-wife and violating a restraining order she had against him. According to a military source, Haas and his ex-wife had orders of protection against each other, and a police sergeant in Clarksville, Tennessee, reports that Haas contacted her repeatedly on Wednesday night, constituting a violation. Haas, who police say is engaged in a child custody battle with his ex-wife, reportedly spent 12 hours in jail and was released.
An Army statement indicated that Haas has been removed from his position in the sexual assault prevention office, and that he was due to retire soon.
News of Haas’ arrest comes as the military sexual assault issue is becoming a top priority for President Obama, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Congress. The president on Thursday met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the heels of a startling Pentagon report released on May 7 detailing the uptick of 2012 military sexual assaults to 26,000, an increase of more than 34% from the previous year. Army general Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the matter “a crisis” because the military is losing the confidence of women who serve that an effective remedy will be found and enforced. The president said about those present at the meeting:
“They care about this, and they’re angry about it, and I heard directly from all of them that they’re ashamed by some of what’s happened. They understand this is a priority and we will not stop until we see this scourge from what is the greatest military in the world eliminated.”
A day prior to the release of the Pentagon report, the head of the Air Force’s efforts to combat such assaults was arrested for sexual battery. An unnamed Army sergeant assigned to an assault prevention office at Fort Hood, Texas, was accused on Tuesday of multiple sexual offenses, including “abusive sexual contact” and forcing at least one female officer into prostitution. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York led the announcement Thursday morning of a new bill aimed at taking major criminal cases involving rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment out of the military chain of command. “We believe enough is enough,” said the senator, adding later that “when any single victim of sexual assault is forced to salute her attacker, clearly our system is broken.”
See more coverage of this issue on Saturday’s edition of “Melissa Harris-Perry,” when Service Women’s Action Network executive director and co-founder Anu Bhagwati will be our guest.