During this Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on sexual assault in the military, Sen. Claire McCaskill excoriated the Air Force general who overturned a sexual assault conviction as a "poster case of a lack of training and understanding of sexual assault."
As we've noted here, the military has been failing miserably for years at policing themselves, and unlike some of her colleagues on the right, Sen. McCaskill expressed the appropriate level of outrage at what's been going on and over the excuses made by this general who thought it was okay to overturn the decision made by a jury because he did not believe the defendant could have assaulted anyone because he was “a doting father and husband."
A Pentagon report last month estimated that 26,000 people in the military were sexually assaulted last year, a dramatic increase over 2011 and a rate that translates to more than 70 sexual assaults daily at U.S. military installations around the world.
That report, based on a survey, also said that 6.1 percent of women and 1.2 percent of men were subjected to "unwanted sexual contact" last year.
Those numbers and recent cases of military commanders pardoning convicted rapists have triggered legislation in Congress, and scrutiny from Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a former prosecutor who handled rape cases, and other senators. [...]
In the hearing's early stages, McCaskill pointedly took issue with what she regards as the military's insufficient methods of reporting. The failure to separate out the most serious issues and "mushing together" instances related to sex makes it impossible to know the true extent of the problem, she said.
"This isn't about sex. This is about assaultive domination and violence," McCaskill told the service chiefs.
"Unwanted sexual contact is everything from someone looking at you sideways when they shouldn't and someone pushing you up against the wall and brutally raping you. You've got to, in your surveys delineate the two problems. Because until you do, we will have no idea whether you're getting your hands around this," she said.
Later, McCaskill referred to a letter of explanation written by an Air Force general who set aside the sexual assault conviction of a fellow F-16 pilot.
"It was astoundingly ignorant," McCaskill said. "He opened it by saying she (the victim) didn't get a ride home when she had the chance. Are you frickin' kidding me? That that is somehow relevant to whether or not he crawled in bed with her and tried to have sex with her? ... I recommend his letter to you as a poster case of a lack of training and understanding of sexual assault."
The military brass heard bipartisan concerns.
"Are you frickin' kidding me" is right. I'm glad to see this matter getting some of the attention it deserves. I don't think we're going to change what's going on unless we take the prosecutions of these predators out of the chain of command.