Military Sexual Assaults: Who Prevents the Preventers?

Military sexual assaults draw outrage, calls for reform from Pentagon chief, lawmakers.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., questions top officials of the Air Force, Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, about how they are dealing with the controversy over sexual assaults and how the military justice system handles it, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 7, 2013.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., questions top officials of the Air Force about how they are dealing with the controversy over sexual assaults during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing May 7 on Capitol Hill.

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Reports that service members responsible for preventing sexual assaults are themselves under investigation for such abuses has prompted a concern throughout the federal government: Who is overseeing the overseers?

[READ: Army Investigates Sexual Assault Prevention Worker Accused of Sexual Assault]

There are roughly 9,000 service members who work in some sort of sexual assault prevention capacity, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Wednesday. Roughly 3,000 service members have taken part in a new training program by an outside sex assault prevention group to help them work with victims.

But Secretary Chuck Hagel, in response to news Tuesday of another sexual assault investigation, has called for all of these professionals to undergo re-reviews and re-training to ensure they are the right people for the job.

Following this latest incident, Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced a bill that would establish new criteria for hiring these staffers.

 

These new regulations would review the background and performance of all sexual assault prevention workers, fire those who don't meet the standards and set new minimum levels for training and qualifications.

[MORE: Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention Chief Arrested for Sexual Assault]

McCaskill has been one of the most vocal lawmakers regarding sexual assault, following reports in February that an Air Force commander at Aviano Air Base in Italy dismissed a guilty verdict against a pilot accused of sexually assaulting a woman.

"Now is the time for our military leaders to reevaluate who is being put into these positions," said McCaskill in a written statement.

Secretary Hagel has initiated new weekly meetings to discuss progress in addressing sexual assaults in the military, Little said. He met with President Barack Obama on Tuesday following reports of the most recent investigation.

"There is a frustration on the part of this secretary," Little said, "It's not just about talking about this issue. He realizes that we have to take action and we have to take action swiftly, and that is what he has told his senior staff to do."

"We realize there are problems. We know that we have some issues to confront," he added. "I don't want anyone to be left with the impression that there aren't good people working this issue inside this department. There are."

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