Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Who Will Protect Us From Those Who Watch Over Us?

Air Force Chief of Sexual-Assault Prevention Arrested on Sexual Battery Charges

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, was arrested and charged with sexual battery in Arlington, Virginia. Photo: Arlington Police Department
How serious is the Air Force’s sexual assault epidemic? Yesterday, police in northern Virginia arrested the Air Force’s chief of sexual-assault prevention — for sexual assault.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, was “arrested and charged with sexual battery,” according to the Arlington, Virginia police department. According to the arrest report, Krusinski drunkenly “approached a female victim in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks.”
Until today, Krusinski, a lieutenant colonel, was the chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program. An Air Force spokesman, Maj. Eric Badger, told Danger Room that the Air Force removed Krusinski from his position within the program, “immediately upon learning of the arrest.” (It’s worth mentioning that the Air Force did not initially confirm Krusinski’s arrest when Danger Room spoke to a different spokeswoman, Jennifer Cassidy; and deferred that confirmation to the Arlington police.)
Dustin Sternbeck, a public information officer with the Arlington Police Department, released a mugshot, shown here, to Danger Room. While Sternbeck could not confirm Krusinski’s profession, the man shown in the mugshot looks a lot like Lt. Col. Krusinski, shown in this 2011 video from Afghanistan.
The office Krusinski ran “reinforces the Air Force’s commitment to eliminate incidents of sexual assault through awareness and prevention training, education, victim advocacy, response, reporting and accountability,” according to its website. “The Air Force promotes sensitive care and confidential reporting for victims of sexual assault and accountability for those who commit these crimes.”
According to the police report, Krusinski’s alleged intended victim “fought the suspect off” as he attempted a second groping, and called the police. “Police arrived on scene a short time after the victim reported the incident,” Sternbeck told Danger Room. “He did not resist arrest.” The intended victim was apparently responsible for the wounds visible on Krusinski’s face.
Krusinski was held on a $5,000 unsecured bond. His arrest was first reported by the website ARLnow.
“If these allegations are true, this is one more example on a long list of how fundamentally broken the military justice system and culture are,” emailed Nancy Parrish, the president of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for the survivors of military sexual assault. “The idea that the head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office could be arrested for sexual assault indicates the depth of the problem. It’s outrageous.”
Time and again, the Pentagon — and the Air Force in particular — has assured the public that it’s taking its sexual-assault problem seriously. An estimated 19,000 rapes or sexual assaults occur annually in the military, although a fraction ever get reported. “If we don’t take steps to deal with it — if we don’t exercise better leadership to confront it — it’ll get worse,” former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta remarked in September.
Yet it’s often been leaders within the military who carry out the abuse. Air Force instructors at Joint Base Lackland-San Antonio, where the Air Force conducts its training, allegedly sexually assaulted at least 59 cadets and airmen in the worst sexual assault scandal in the service’s history. Some instructors are facing military trials. Yet the Air Force also has shown leniency for its top officers: although Lt. Col. James Wilkerson was convicted by a military court of groping a sleeping woman’s breasts and vagina, the general in charge of the Third Air Force voided Wilkerson’s conviction and returned him to active duty. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has placed a hold on a promotion for Air Force Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms after learning Helms overturned the sexual-assault conviction of an Air Force captain.
It’s not just the Air Force. The former deputy commander of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division is facing a military tribunal for sexually abusing multiple women, and threatening their careers if they exposed the abuse.
News of Krusinski’s arrest comes at an inopportune time for the Pentagon. Tomorrow, it’s expected to release an annual report on sexual assault in uniform.
“On the eve of the Pentagon releasing their annual report on the epidemic of sexual assault in the military,” added Brian Purchia, a spokesman for Protect Our Defenders, “these latest allegations for the head of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention program are sickening. … The reporting, investigation and adjudication of sexual assault must be taken out of the chain of command in 2013.”
“When I saw this it made me literally sick to my stomach,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said in a statement emailed to Danger Room. Speier is the author of a bill that would remove the military chain of command from investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual assault, something advocates believe would remove a conflict of interest that inhibits adequately addressing the extent of the sexual-abuse epidemic. “How many more reasons do we need to take cases of rape and sexual assault out of the chain of command?”
Update, 10:08 p.m.: From a statement just released by Pentagon press secretary George Little: “This evening Secretary Hagel spoke to Air Force Secretary Donley about allegations of misconduct involving an Air Force officer who had been responsible for the service’s sexual assault and prevention efforts and was removed today from his position pending the outcome of an investigation. Secretary Hagel expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively. Secretary Hagel has been directing the Department’s leaders to elevate their focus on sexual assault prevention and response, and he will soon announce next steps in our ongoing efforts to combat this vile crime.”

 The past year has been a banner one for recognizing and speaking out about sexual assault in the military: During the summer of 2012, it was uncovered that 12 of the 400 Lackland Air Force Base instructors had conducted unwanted "seuxal improprieties" with 31 female recruits. (One of them had  28 charges brought against him.) Earlier this month, two high-ranking military officials — one Fort Hood sergeant, another, the head of the military's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP), both whose job description involved protecting female cadets against sexual assault, were charged with that very crime. 

Sgt. First Class Michael McClendon, stationed at West Point to train and mentor cadets, was charged with videotaping more than a dozen female cadets in the shower and latrine between 2009 and 2012. He's since been transferred to Fort Drum and given a desk job, reports CNN. Because apparently violating the privacy and rights of over a dozen women for voyeuristic sh*ts and giggles isn't enough to get this guy fired.


A sergeant in charge of the health and welfare of 125 cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point is accused of secretly filming female cadets in the shower and elsewhere, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Sgt. First Class Michael McClendon, whom the school describes as a staff adviser “responsible for the health, welfare and discipline” of a company of West Point cadets, is being charged with indecent acts, dereliction in the performance of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and actions prejudicial to good order and discipline. Officials said some of the images appear to have been taken in the shower, and others appear to have been taken consensually.

Sgt. First Class Michael McClendon, awarded the Bronze Star during one of his tours in Iraq and earned more than two-dozen other awards. Also he was a seven-time recipient of the Army’s Good Conduct Medal. He was in charge of a cadet company of 121 future officers and responsible for training them on leadership skills, an Army spokesman said.

McClendon, who had been at West Point since 2009, was transferred to Fort Drum after being charged on May 14 with indecent acts, dereliction in the performance of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and actions prejudicial to good order and discipline.

McClendon, of Blakely, Ga., joined the Army in 1990, officials said. He served mainly at domestic bases for the bulk of his career, but did a five-year stint in Germany and two tours in Iraq, his record shows.

McClendon had served as a tactical non-commissioned officer at West Point Army Military Academy in New York since 2009, a job that put him in charge of mentoring and training a company of about 121 cadets, focusing on leadership development and other responsibilities.

“The Army is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of our cadets at the Military Academy at West Point — as well as all soldiers throughout our Army,” Gen. John F. Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff, said on Wednesday. “Once notified of the violation, a full investigation was launched, followed by swift action to correct the problem. Our cadets must be confident that issues such as these are handled quickly and decisively, and that our system will hold those responsible accountable.”

The scandal is the latest in a string of high-profile military scandals involving sexual assault. The Air Force official in charge of its sexual assault prevention program was arrested for sexual battery earlier this month after he allegedly groped a woman in the parking lot of a Virginia bar.

 The following week, news reports surfaced that an Army soldier in charge of a sexual assault prevention program in Fort Hood, Texas, was under investigation for "abusive sexual conduct," and the manager of the sexual assault prevention office at the Fort Campbell military base in Kentucky was fired after he violated his ex-wife's order of protection.

The Pentagon released a report earlier this month estimating that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted in 2012, a sharp rise from the 19,000 estimated assaults in 2011. And officials say the true number may be higher, considering the victims who never come forward with their claims.

In response to the growing problem, members of Congress have introduced a flurry of legislation seeking to reform the UCMJ, military's justice system. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered the military to retrain and recertify each military staffer responsible for administering sexual assault prevention programs. “We all have committed to turn this around, and we’re going to fix the problem,” Hagel said at a news conference last week. “The problem will be solved here, in this institution, and we will fix it.”

In May, Hagel ordered the armed services to immediately "re-train, re-credential, and re-screen" all military recruiters and sexual-assault prevention officers.
The military recruiter part of that directive comes from news that military recruiters have been committing sexual harassment and assault against civilians. In one case described as the worst of the worst, a Texas military court will convene to hear charges against an Air Force recruiter that involve rape, forcible sodomy, and other crimes he committed against 18 women over a three-year period.
In another case involving a recruiter, Marine Gunnery Sergeant Nicholas Howard, 33, was convicted of first-degree sexual assault and adultery in the rape of a 23-year-old woman in Alaska. He was given a dishonorable discharge but no jail time. Civilian law authorities were stunned at the result.
There are no exact figures to the amount of sexual violence committed by recruiters against civilians because the armed forces do not keep track of such data.



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