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Military sexual assault: prominent media coverage continues

Following formal investigation, a high-ranking Army officer serving in Japan will be demoted by one grade and retired from military service.

The conduct of that officer -- a two-star general -- was closely scrutinized by the Army Inspector General following the coming to light of information relating to an alleged sexual assault committed by another Army officer.

That officer, a colonel and long-time acquaintance of the two-star general, was alleged by a Japanese female civilian employee to have sexually assaulted her. The IG report concluded that the higher-ranking officer improperly delayed a subsequent criminal investigation of the matter.

As a result, the two-star general will now lose one star and be forced to retire as a brigadier general.

The story is certainly timely, given the heightened media attention that sex-based crimes in the military are currently receiving in the national press. We alluded to that media prominence in an article discussing military sexual assault, in which we noted the view of some commentators that sex crimes in the armed forces may have “reached epidemic proportions.”

That might -- or might not -- be true. On the one hand, certain writers on the subject say that sexual assault in the military is a huge and ongoing problem that is flatly underreported. On the other hand, though, some critics have stepped forward to note that an element of sensationalism might be attaching to some reports and that sex crimes in the military are far from being unchecked and out of control.

As we noted in the above-cited article, the United States Department of Defense maintains that sex assault reports are routinely considered with due care and that a sex crime is never tolerated or ignored.

Military sexual assault is certainly a front-and-center topic and likely to remain as such in the near and intermediate future. As we have remarked to readers in past select posts, it is imperative in any sexual assault matter that the claims of any alleged victim be fully and promptly investigated.

Conversely, and in the interests of fundamental fairness and justice, the legal rights of any person who has been accused -- but not convicted -- of a sex crime must be fully safeguarded.

Without such guarantees on both sides, the term “justice” would indeed ring hollow.

Source: Stars and Stripes, "Army general forced out, forfeits star for mishandling sex assault claim," Chris Carroll, Aug. 27, 2014

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