Washington: Terming incidents of sexual assault inside the military as not only a crime, but also shameful and disgraceful, US President Barack Obama has said that such events would weaken the Army.
The issue of sexual assault in armed forces undermines trust between its personnel, Obama said, following his meeting with US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and top military leadership following reports of sexual assault in armed forces.
"Not only is it a crime, not only is it shameful and disgraceful, but it is has made the military less effective than it can be. And as such, it is dangerous to our national security," Obama said yesterday.
The US President exuded confidence that the Pentagon leadership would take necessary steps to address this problem, that has troubled the US armed forces for quite some time now.
"I`ve asked Secretary of Defence Hagel and Marty Dempsey to help lead a process to continue to get at this. That starts with accountability at every level. It includes accountability not just for enforcing the law, but training our personnel effectively, putting our best people on this challenge," he said.
Obama stressed that justice needs to be provided to the victims, when they come forward and the perpetrators have to bear the consequences.
"We`ve got to create an environment where victims feel comfortable coming forward and they know people have their backs and that they will work in a way that keeps the focus on justice and make right what`s been wronged," he said.
Meanwhile, several US Senators co-sponsored a legislation yesterday to strengthen prosecution of sexual assault crimes in the military.
The bill takes away authority of commanders to overturn or lessen court-martial verdicts in sexual assault cases, requires justification for changes in court-martial sentences by a commander and removes the military chain-of-command from determining whether sexual assault cases are prosecuted.
The Department of Defence (DOD) estimates that while 26,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2012, only 3,374 cases were reported. Of those cases, only 238 resulted in conviction.
"The current military system to prosecute sexual assaults is, at best, a subjective, insensitive process that provides little support for victims and a lot of leeway for criminals.”
“This new legislation helps bring more impartiality to the system, ensures justice for victims and restores trust in our nation`s military as an institution," said Senator Mark Begich, one of the co-sponsor of the legislation.