Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Army Scandal Shows Limits of Sexual Conduct Policies

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Army Scandal Shows Limits of Sexual Conduct Policies

Article excerpt

Allegations of rape and sexual harassment against US Army drill sergeants in Maryland and Missouri are unleashing a flood of complaints from female military personnel nationwide.

And they are raising questions about whether policies initiated by the Defense Department in the wake of the US Navy's Tailhook scandal have been effective in protecting female soldiers from illegal abuse by their male commanders.

The Army moved quickly earlier this week to respond to allegations that a drill instructor at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Ordinance Center in Maryland raped three female recruits and abused five others. Officials set up a toll-free hot line to help investigators identify victims and possible witnesses. But what followed was a torrent of telephone calls. Many were related to questionable activities at the Aberdeen base, but the vast majority of the calls came from women at other bases and included women from all branches of the armed services. "We are getting calls from all over the country," says Capt. Craig Minnick, an Army spokesman at Aberdeen. "Basically we've got investigators working here around the clock." The scandals are sparking debate within the military. At Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., Private Sean McNeill says he wasn't surprised by reports of sexual misconduct. He says sex is a constant thought among soldiers. "When you're in the Army that's mainly what's on your mind. It's there. It's always going to be there." Pvt. Lindsay Jose says both the male officers and the female recruits bear some responsibility for the scandal. "They should have known better," she says. The Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines have all taken steps to instill in officers and enlisted men an understanding of the pernicious nature of sexual harassment. But studies suggest the lessons have not been learned. A 1995 survey of 90,000 women in the military found that nearly 1 in 10 Army women had been sexually assaulted. And 60 percent of women in the Army reported they had been the victim of sexual harassment. …

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