Sexual assault is a 'scourge' on U.S. military: Hagel

Sat May 25, 2013 2:45pm EDT

1 of 10. Graduating cadets stand in formation as they arrive for graduation ceremonies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, May 25, 2013.

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(Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called sexual assault a "scourge" on Saturday as he addressed graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where a sergeant stands accused of videotaping female cadets in the showers.

"Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal - a profound betrayal - of sacred oaths and sacred trusts," Hagel said. "This scourge must be stamped out."

His comments came a day after President Barack Obama delivered a similar message to graduates at the U.S. Naval Academy, saying sexual assault threatened to erode trust and discipline in America's armed forces.

The Pentagon is reeling from a series of sex-related scandals in recent weeks, including cases in which military advocates for victims of sexual assault were themselves accused of sex crimes.

A study released by the Defense Department two weeks ago estimated that reports of unwanted sexual contact in the military, from groping to rape, rose 37 percent in 2012, to about 26,000 cases from 19,000 the previous year.

At West Point in New York state, Sergeant First Class Michael McClendon was charged last week with four counts, including indecent acts, dereliction of duty and cruelty, the Army said.

McClendon had served as a tactical non-commissioned officer at the academy since 2009, a job that put him in charge of mentoring and training a company of about 121 cadets.

The incidents have embarrassed the U.S. military and prompted members of Congress to introduce legislation designed to toughen up the Pentagon's handling of sex crimes.

Hagel, in his address, noted that budget cuts were impacting military readiness and morale. But he cited sexual assault and sexual harassment among other, growing threats to America's all-volunteer force.

"You will need to not just deal with these debilitating, insidious and destructive forces but rather you must be the generation of leaders that stop it," he said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Eric Beech)

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Comments (60)
usagadfly wrote:
Something in the system certainly is not working. Presuming we still want to have a military, something must be done, but it would be quite foolish to limit what will be done to a particular option. That sort of solution led to dealing with alcohol abuse by creating the Mafia as an American institution. Simply put, whatever is done must be effective and must work without imprisoning more millions of “criminals” who do not cooperate with our social reform imperatives. Time for creativity, experimentation and adaptability on the part of Government, which is never easily done.

May 25, 2013 11:02am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Fillybuster wrote:
“Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal – a profound betrayal – of sacred oaths and sacred trusts,” Hagel said. “This scourge must be stamped out.”

Music to my ears.

May 25, 2013 11:05am EDT  --  Report as abuse
mensa141 wrote:
Have they aver thought of NOT sticking two randy 20 years olds in a remote location alone? Our dumb a adminsitraztion is causing the trouble then they wnat to castigate the service members! How dumb can they go?

May 25, 2013 11:08am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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