Recent revelations about the growing problem of sexual assault in the United States military have exposed the fact that much of it never receives formal charges. The United States Army has taken action against General Michael T. Harrison who did not report it.
Major General Michael T. Harrison is the Commander in charge of the U.S. military stationed in Japan.
“He was suspended due to allegations he failed to properly report and investigate allegations of sexual abuse,” Army spokesman George Wright told CNN on Friday.
Major General James C. Boozer, the former deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe, will replace Harrison until the matter is resolved.
The sexual abuse scandal has erupted since several military officers and enlisted men whose purpose was to investigate and help prevent the problem, were themselves accused of impropriate action. Congress has become involved, and has proposed a change in military policy that would take the decision about prosecution away from the Commanders.
Both the United States Naval Academy and West Point have recently had their own scandals. Three football players at Annapolis have been charged, and a Sergeant Major at West Point is accused of photographing women without their knowledge. 26,000 anonymous cases were reported in 2012.
Tuesday, hearings were held before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Commanders of all service branches, as well as other brass were in attendance. The Senators were not pleased with their responses.
“I took my eye off the ball in the commands I had,” said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He attempted to make a partial excuse, that because of two prolonged wars, other things had been somewhat ‘overlooked.’
General Dempsey urged the Senators to reconsider a proposal that would change the military procedures for handling sexual abuse complaints. Congress would prefer to have military prosecutors be in charge instead of the commanding officers. Senators taking part in the hearings referred to the 1991 Tailhook Scandal. Military commanders had pledged to ensure the safety of women in the military after the incident, but it appears to have become worse instead of better.
General Dempsey, acting as spokesman for the other officers, urged the Senators to refrain from legislating changes to military procedure and protocol. When asked if they had researched methods other countries use in their prosecution of cases involving sexual misconduct, the Naval Commander said, “thanks for the tip.” Not a very satisfying response.
The number of filed and reported complaints in 2012 were 3,374. There were nearly nine times that many, which were not formally filed. Advocates say that is because victims think they will be ignored, blamed or retaliated against by officers who either lack training in how to investigate these crimes or don’t want to acknowledge problems in their units that could reflect badly on their command.
“I’m a little taken aback. It sounds like you all are very bullish on the status quo,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told a panel of officers who do criminal investigations, and “the status quo is not acceptable.” Congress is right to no longer accept the military’s promises that it will solve the problem on its own.
Let’s hope the allegations against General Harrison, of not reporting or prosecuting sexual abuse cases, are not merely the ‘offering of a sacrificial lamb.’
The Guardian Express