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Military faces allegations of widespread sexual assault

Four Air Force bases are under investigation for allegations of sexual assault and rape of new recruits. One military training instructor has already pled guilty to rape of one of his subordinates and 11 more are facing similar charges.

People in a position of authority often have a unique opportunity to commit crimes such as sexual abuse and assault. A former Marine Corp officer and advocate for women's rights told reporters that the situation on the bases presents a target-rich environment for sexual assault where new recruits are controlled in their every move through fear and intimidation.

It is very upsetting to hear allegations like this coming out of the military, although unfortunately it is not surprising. Government officials estimate that about 19,000 sexual assaults happen every year within the military, but only 14 percent are reported. Of the assaults that are reported, only eight percent see a court martial.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that they are taking the situation seriously and will be creating a special victims unit in each branch of the military. The new units will have highly trained specialists that will respond to allegations of sexual assault and rape and care for survivors.

For the brave women who signed up to serve their country in the military, this high rate of sexual assault is unacceptable. It also raises concerns for other members of the armed forces, since these crimes can happen to anyone and are often perpetrated by authority figures.

If the investigation reveals any negligence or cover-up by other members of the Air Force or by the Pentagon or Defense Department who knew about the assaults, then those departments or other people may be liable for damages to the victims in a civil action.

Source: CNN, "31 victims identified in widening Air Force sex scandal," Chris Lawrence, June 29, 2012.

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