The Air Force, acknowledging that many accused rapists are not punished, has ordered prosecutors in the Pacific command region to provide more detailed legal advice to commanders on whether airmen should be prosecuted, the Denver Post reports. commanders – not prosecutors – decide whether service members are prosecuted.
A March 1 Air Force memo released to The Denver Post shows that more accused rapists in the region faced administrative punishments – which carry no possibility of jail time – than courts-martial between 2001 and 2003. Rape cases in the Pacific territory have been on the rise, according to the memo from Gen. William Begert to his wing commanders. “Decisive action” is needed to help rape victims, he wrote, citing weak safety and mental- health services. He ordered improved crisis-intervention training for airmen, victim liaisons and other Air Force staffers, and demanded better coordination among victim liaisons and law enforcement. “In some cases, mental health or life-skills support was provided (to rape victims) only when requested,” Begert stated in the memo. “This is unacceptable.”
New Air Force directives will be used as a model for the eight other major commands, which also are investigating how to improve the handling of sexual-assault cases. Most of the Pacific mandates address flaws illustrated by stories in The Post, which found a shortage of victim-advocacy services and widespread leniency for accused offenders under a punishment system that lets commanders decide if soldiers are prosecuted. The Pacific command region extends from the West Coast of the U.S. to east Africa, including 45,000 military and civilian personnel. Under that command, a sampling of 106 rape cases reviewed by a study panel included only 14 that went to court-martial (seven resulting in rape convictions), compared with 41 cases in which the accused got an administrative rebuke such as a fine or reprimand.