U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Armed Services Committee, pressed top United States Air Force officials in a hearing today on the issue of sexual assault in the military including the arrest of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, chief of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch, on charges of sexual battery in Arlington, Virginia. In his questioning, Kaine expressed his concern over the signal these news accounts send to current and future servicemembers, noting his recent visit with female cadets at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton.
"I just worry about the effects of this," Kaine told Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley and Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Mark Walsh. "There are all sorts of today effects of this event when someone is charged -- particularly when a person overseeing a program to deal with victims of sexual assault is in fact, charged. But I worry as much about the tomorrow effects. I worry about the tomorrow effects on women who are thinking of making military careers. I also worry about those women in the program who don't commission but go into the civilian world, maybe with more of a concern that if this happens at the top echelon of the military leadership then it can happen in the civilian world as well."
"The stakes on this one are enormously high," Kaine continued. " We need to worry about the morale of tomorrow's military leaders and in that context I'm quite concerned."
The Pentagon is expected to release a report today that an estimated 26,000 sexual assault offenses are committed each year and that there has been a 6 percent increase in reported sexual assaults involving a servicemember as either a victim or an offender in the last year. Of sexual assault incidents, one in six are officially reported and only one in ten reported cases proceed to trial.
"Sexual assault reports to DOD authorities involving servicemembers as either a victim or offender increased by six percent, from 3,192 reports in FY11 to 3,374 reports in FY12," the Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members shows. " Compared to 2010 results, the 2012 survey showed the prevalence of unwanted sexual contact increased for active duty women and remain unchanged for active duty men, and men and women in the Reserves. For active duty women, past-year prevalence of unwanted sexual contact increased significantly, from 4.4 percent in 2010 (19,300) to 6.1 percent in 2012 (26,000)."
During his questioning, Kaine noted one inspiration for his comments was a recent visit to Staunton where he met with cadets at the Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership at Mary Baldwin College.
"Last week we were in a recess and I often go to places that touch upon our Armed Services -- VA hospitals, bases, military contractors, ROTC programs. I was at an interesting one last week. Mary Baldwin College is a women's college in Staunton that has a nearly 100-member women's institute for leadership with a commissioning rate that's higher than most of the six senior military colleges designated in Title X. One of the young ladies was asking me a question and said "Do you think the military's decision to remove barriers to combat service might have a broader effect on women's opportunities in the civilian world,'" Kaine noted, before expressing his hope that all service branches will address issues of sexual assault swiftly to send a message to women entering civilian and military life that these types of incidents will not be tolerated.
The Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton is the only all-female cadet corps in the world and has a 57 percent commissioning rate.