Dozens of U.S. servicewomen in the Persian Gulf area and elsewhere are reporting sexual assaults or rapes by fellow troops, the New York Times says. There have been 112 reports of sexual misconduct over the past 18 months in the Central Command area, which includes Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Military officials said most charges were being investigated and that some had resulted in disciplinary actions. About two dozen women at Sheppard Air Force Base, a training facility in Texas, have reported to a local rape-crisis center that they were assaulted in 2002. The Air Force Academy in Colorado is still reeling from the disclosure of more than 50 reported assaults or rapes over the last decade.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has ordered a senior-level inquiry into the reported sexual assaults in Iraq and Kuwait, and how the armed services treats victims of sexual attacks. The Army and Air Force have opened similar investigations.
At a Senate hearing yesterday, lawmakers sharply questioned the top Pentagon personnel official and four-star officers for what critics called lapses in the military’s ability to protect servicewomen from assaults, to provide medical care and counseling to victims, and to punish violators.
The latest scandals have burst into public view largely because of a recent series of investigative articles by The Denver Post and growing pressure from lawmakers.