Though lawmakers such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have done much in the past year to bring the issue of military rape to the forefront of the U.S. Congress, a recent case of sexual assault in the Army shows that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Staff Sgt. Angel M. Sanchez, who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been accused of sexually assaulting and harassing a dozen women soldiers during his tenure with the military. A litany of charges against him, starting as early as 2011, were read in a pretrial hearing this week on a military base in Missouri. The charges ranged from forcing a woman soldier to perform oral sex in the barracks to spying on woman soldiers as they showered. Sanchez allegedly used his position to silence his victims, threatening them with dismissal from the Army if they didn’t meet his sexual demands.
These new revelations come on the heels of increasing pressure on the military to revamp the way it handles sexual assault cases. The Pentagon admitted just this month that more than 5,000 sexual assaults were reported last year—a 50 percent increase from the year before. In the vast majority of the cases, the victim was a younger, lower-ranking woman.
To add insult to injury, after several woman soldiers testified against Sanchez, his attorney, Ernesto Gasapin, cast doubt on their believability by saying, “It starts as one allegation and spreads out. We have serious questions about the credibility of the witnesses making these accusations”.
Cases like these just prove, once again, how important it would be to pass Gillibrand’s pending Military Justice Improvement Act. How much more information and evidence do our legislators need?
For a feature story on military sexual assault in the Spring 2013 issue of the Ms., click here.
Anita Little is associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.