The military’s effort to combat sexual assault in its ranks has been handicapped by the reluctance, even refusal, of victims to come forward and report abuse. Who can blame them, given instances in which those who are supposed to be leading the fight against abuse are sometimes themselves guilty of misconduct? If there ever is to be real progress, sexual assault crimes need to be removed from a chain of command that is more inclined to protect than prosecute wrongdoers.
A recent investigation by The Post’s Craig Whitlock uncovered a series of previously undisclosed cases in which soldiers with key roles in the fight against sexual misconduct were accused of using their authority to victimize women under their command. The leader of an Army training institute dedicated to prevention of discrimination and sexual misconduct was accused by seven female employees of inappropriate touching. An Army commander was promoted even as he faced court-martial for sexually harassing and assaulting a female lieutenant on his staff.
The cases call into question how seriously the military takes the fight against sexual assaults.
Recent years have seen a host of reforms, some spurred by Congress. Reports of sexual assaults are up, which officials say shows that victims are more willing to trust the system. But many women choose not to pursue charges all the way to trial. Taking sexual crimes out of the chain of command, as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., advocates, would help fix that problem.