U.S. Military Faces More Accusations Of Sexual Improprieties

In Texas, a sergeant at Fort Hood is accused of engaging in various offenses, at the same time he was in charge of an anti-sexual abuse office at the base. It's the second time an officer, who's supposed to help victims of assault, is facing accusations of sexual offenses himself.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. The U.S. military faces yet another accusation of sexual improprieties. This time, it involves a soldier in the U.S. Army who was in charge of a sexual assault prevention response office at Fort Hood, Texas. NPR's Larry Abramson is covering this story. Hi, Larry.

LARRY ABRAMSON, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: What happened at Fort Hood?

ABRAMSON: So this case involves a sergeant first class in the Army. He was running the sexual assault response office at Fort Hood. We don't know his name yet, but he faces accusations of abusive sexual contact, assault, maltreatment of subordinates and pandering. Now, pandering usually refers to pimping, basically; encouraging or forcing someone into prostitution.

There are media reports, based on anonymous sources, that this is what this sergeant was involved in; our sources are telling us the same thing. But this investigation is just started. In fact, there are no charges against this man, so we don't know for certain, exactly what he did. But either way, it's another person who was supposed to be helping victims of sexual assault, involved in some sort of impropriety.

INSKEEP: What, exactly, is a sexual assault prevention and response office supposed to do in the United States Army?

ABRAMSON: They are supposed to help those who are assaulted in the military deal with the trauma of assault, make sure that they get the proper care, and also prevent assault - distribute education materials, help make sure that people are properly trained about the way to deal with their colleagues so that they don't abuse them.

INSKEEP: This is particularly shocking because you would imagine that someone running an office like this would be dealing with people who are already vulnerable.

ABRAMSON: That's true, Steve. And as we learn more about this case, we'll find out exactly what he was doing to these people. But he clearly abused the trust that was placed in his hands.

INSKEEP: If the charges are correct. And...

ABRAMSON: That's right.

INSKEEP: ...we should insist, people are innocent until proven guilty.

ABRAMSON: Of course.

INSKEEP: This, however, Larry Abramson, is the second recent case involving the U.S. military; the other in the Air Force. An officer in the Air Force responsible for an anti-sexual-assault program was arrested for accosting a woman, a civilian.

ABRAMSON: Right. His name is Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinksi. He was arrested by police in Arlington, Va., just over a week ago. He was leading a sexual - response unit for the entire Air Force. Now, he's charged with groping a woman - a civilian - in a parking lot, apparently after a night of drinking. And, you know, as you know, Steve, the Air Force has had more than its share of sexual assault problems with an ongoing scandal at Lackland Air Force Base. That's where all new recruits for the Air Force are initially trained.

INSKEEP: Larry, even before this latest case, Congress was raising a lot of concerns about sexual assault in the military. How are people responding now?

ABRAMSON: Reaction from Congress, Steve, was swift and very angry, from Republicans and Democrats alike. Many of them promised to advance legislation that would force the Pentagon to deal with this issue more effectively; maybe even change the way the military deals with the entire problem by changing the role of the chain of command, in dealing with sexual assault.

And as you know, that is a very important tool for commanders to maintain control of their troops. But some suggest that the fact that commanders are able to decide whether or not some of these cases go forward, makes it more difficult for victims to respond. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered the rescreening and retraining of all sexual assault prevention and response personnel as well as of military recruiters. He wants the military to be able to deal with this problem on its own, without major changes to the code of military justice. But this series of episodes may make that impossible.

INSKEEP: NPR's Larry Abramson, thanks very much.

ABRAMSON: Thank you.

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