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Advocate: Commanders Need A Role In Reporting Sexual Abuse

female military

Photo: Flickr/ DVIDSHUB

Congress is debating changes to how the military handles sexual assault cases. The bill being proposed would prevent top commanders from handling cases that involved their subordinates. The leader of Indiana’s sexual assault prevention groups says she doesn’t think that approach is the way to go.

The Department of Defense is taking up the issue of sexual violence in the military after an Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention Chief was charged with sexual battery and a recruiter in Texas is under investigation for similar charges.

According to a report from the Pentagon as many as 26,000 military personnel may have been assaulted in the past year, with most of those going unreported. Anita Carpenter heads Indiana’s Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Since 2005 she’s worked with the Department of Defense on sexual violence issues. She says most of the commanders she’s talked to understand the severity of sexual violence and they want to deal with it.

“I had a commander that I interviewed one time who I asked point blank if he had a victim in his command what would be your response.” Carpenter says. “He looked at me with all seriousness and said, ‘my first responsibility is to go to the hospital and make sure my solider is OK. I want to know what she needs, I want to provide her the resources and I want to make sure she is OK and then I want to know who did this horrible crime to her because I don’t want a predator under my command. I don’t want a predator in my corps.’ And that spoke volumes to me that they were first concerned about the victims and they wanted to address it.”

Carpenter says having an alternative option to report sexual abuse could be a valuable thing to consider, but she says completely taking the responsibility away from commanders means they wouldn’t be able to address the problem.

“We are dealing with the minority part of the population and albeit serious and needs to be a priority I think it is important to remember that commanders and the majority of men out there are not committing acts of sexual violence against people,” Carpenter says.

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