Members of Congress expressed alarm and demanded answers.
UNITED STATES.- U.S. military officials have sought to ward off congres- sional efforts to address child-on-child sexual assaults on bases, even as they disclose that the problem is larger than previously acknowledged.
Members of Congress expressed alarm and demanded answers after an Associated Press investigation revealed that re- ports of sexual violence among kids on U.S. military bases and at Pentagon-run schools are get- ting lost in a dead zone of justice that often leaves both victim and offender without help.
With at least three potential legislative fixes being drafted, military officials have had a clear message during briefings with lawmakers and their staffs: We can handle this on our own. It’s a strategy that began months ago, after the Pentagon received AP’s questions and well before officials understood the scope or severity of the problem.
In March, AP documented nearly 600 sex assault cases among children and teens on U.S. bases worldwide over a 10-year period. Army criminal investigators have now added another 86 investigations to the 223 they initially disclosed. The revision came after AP challenged data that suggested major installa- tions in several states and overseas had no or only a few such sexual assault cases.
One Texas congressman has filed legislation that would direct the Pentagon to transfer cases to state authorities, who unlike the military or federal prosecutors have much more experience handling juvenile offenders. At least two Senate offices are drafting legislative language to address the problems that AP’s reporting revealed.
In response, officials from the service branches and the Pentagon school system lobbied for time to fix the problem themselves, according to interviews and records. School system officials have told AP they were developing new rules for responding to the sexual violence.