June 1, 2013  

Weak Words

To the Air Force for not yet getting it about sexual assault.

It would be easy enough to dock the air service for managing to appoint an officer to run its sexual-assault prevention programs who would go on just a few months later to be arrested on charges of groping a woman in a parking lot. (Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, it should be noted, has only been charged, not convicted.)

But perhaps more telling was testimony just a few days later from the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh. Pressed by lawmakers about the rising number of reports of sexual assault in the military, Welsh chose to note that 20 percent of women reported that they had been sexually assaulted “before they came into the military” and went on to cite “the hookup mentality” among teenagers.

Certainly, the military reflects society and its problems to some extent; this has ever been the case, and with all manner of ills. And Welsh did in his testimony vow to punish those who commit such crimes. But an organization battling the perception that sexual assault is not always taken seriously needs stronger words from its leaders.