The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 14, 2013

Our View: Disgraceful military assault

The Joplin Globe

— We want to make one thing clear: A sexual assault is not a sex scandal. Nor can the rise in sexual assaults in the military be justified in any way.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh was wrong when he blamed a “hook-up” culture for the rising assault numbers. A failure to address sexual assault as a crime is what’s wrong.

We are also ashamed that in the reporting on the arrest of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the man in charge of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, some publications have referred to it as a “sex scandal.” Krusinski was arrested and charged with sexual battery for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman in a suburban Virginia parking lot.

Let’s make it perfectly clear: This was an attack, not a sex scandal.

The Defense Department estimates that 23 to 28 percent of women serving in the military will be sexually assaulted at least once over the course of their service. And 11 percent will be raped.

Documents released by the Department of Defense this past week reveal that military sexual assault is actually on the rise. Reports of sexual assault rose 6 percent in 2012 over the previous year to  3,374. But an anonymous survey of military members revealed that there may have been as many as 26,000 assaults last year — up from 19,000 estimated assaults in 2011.

Now, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who has been outspoken about the military’s handling of sexual-assault cases, has asked that President Barack Obama’s nomination of Lt. Gen. Susan Helms for vice commander of the Air Force Space Command be halted. McCaskill first wants a clear explanation of why Helms last year overturned a jury conviction in a sexual-assault case.

We support McCaskill for her efforts to enforce accountability.

Let’s call sexual assault what it is — a crime.