{{show_title_date || "Kennedy: 500 assaults a week in military and number's going up, 7/28/13, 3:07 PM ET"}}

Sexual assault a ‘cultural problem’ in military


An estimated 500 U.S. soldiers are sexually assaulted each week and, last year, 3,374 service members reported sexual assaults. About 90 percent of service members didn’t report unwanted sexual contact. That’s more than 3,374 members of the armed forces who have been sexually assaulted by one of their own.

Last month, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York proposed an amendment to take cases of sexual assault out of the review of the chain of command. The amendment caused a rift in the Democratic caucus, with Gillibrand’s colleague, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri arguing that it’s not necessary to completely remove the cases out of the chain of command completely.

USA Today’s Kelly Kennedy joined msnbc’s Alex Witt on Sunday to discuss her latest article . Kennedy interviewed soldiers who were sexually assaulted while in the service who said they did not know who to report the attacks to. In some cases, speaking out about the assaults threatened their careers.

Some commanders have handled the problem by ignoring it.

“There aren’t supposed to be any assaults in your unit, so one of the ways to make sure you don’t have sexual assaults in your unit, is to not report them,” she said.

Commanders also use intimidation and threats to keep reports hidden, Kennedy said.

“I think this is a cultural problem, if you [soldiers] do anything that falls out of line, they [commanders] can make your life miserable on a daily basis,” she said.

Sen. Gillibrand’s amendment needs 51 votes to pass the amendment.

Sexual assault a 'cultural problem' in military