Congressional members are asking the Defense and Justice departments to find solutions for alleged sexual abuse among children on U.S. military bases.
What is the issue?
An Associated Press investigation found that reports of child-on-child sexual violence are often shelved by criminal investigators or go unprosecuted, even if an attacker confesses. Often, neither the victim nor offender receive counseling or other assistance, the investigation found.
The House Armed Services Committee is examining the issue in response to the AP investigation, reports said. Additionally, four senators have sent letters to the Pentagon and Justice Department.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said it is “a national disgrace and a military scandal” that nearly 600 allegations of sexual assault among children have allegedly taken place on military bases since 2007.
Tens of thousands of children living on U.S. bases are not covered by military law. The Justice Department, which handles civilian crimes on many bases, “isn’t equipped or inclined” to take on juvenile cases, the investigation found.
“You cannot have an environment in which children aren’t protected, regardless of whether they’re on a base or in a public school classroom. So we’ve got to change the law,” Speier told AP in an interview.
What else are people saying?
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said that the AP report shows “an inscrutable system that fails these children at every level.”
Also, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who lead the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, requesting a “comprehensive review” of sexual assault policies regarding military children in schools and elsewhere on bases, the AP reported.
“It disturbs us to learn that the department’s policies and procedures may prevent efforts to help child victims of misconduct ... and to rehabilitate and hold child offenders accountable,” their letter stated.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote to the Justice Department’s inspector general to request an investigation into how many child sex assault cases have been prosecuted and why the majority have been declined, the AP reported.
“Alleged conversations between Secretary Mattis and other officials are private and will remain as such,” Maj. Dave Eastburn told AP in an email.
Records initially released by the military showed only one-third of the cases the AP identified through interviews with prosecutors, military investigators, family members, and whistleblowers, according to the report.
The report explained how the problem extends beyond the U.S.:
This legal and bureaucratic netherworld also extends to the Pentagon’s worldwide network of schools, which afford students fewer protections than public schools if they are sexually attacked by a classmate on campus. The federal law that offers help to victims of student-on-student sexual assault, known as Title IX, does not apply to federal education programs, such as those run by the military.