Air Force Officer in Charge of Preventing Sexual Assault Arrested For Sexual Assault

tagsEarly Sunday, an Air Force Officer who was chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, was arrested in Arlington, Va., for sexual battery. The crime report states:

05/05/13, 500 block of S. 23rd Street. On May 5 at 12:35 am, a drunken male subject approached a female victim in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks. The victim fought the suspect off as he attempted to touch her again and alerted police. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, of Arlington, VA, was arrested and charged with sexual battery. He was held on a $5,000 unsecured bond.

NBC News reports that Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, has since been removed from his position as chief of the program that’s supposed to protect military women from sexual assault.

Sexual assault in the military, and the process for dealing with it, has been a topic of ever-increasing concern. The Pentagon estimates that 26,000 people in the military were sexually assaulted in the 2012 fiscal year (up from 19,000 in 2010), with only 3,374 reported. Studies show that one in five women in the military have been sexually assaulted—but only about 14 percent of them report it to military authorities, according to the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

Part of the reason many women don’t report their assault is the fear of being punished for saying anything, or the fear of being ignored entirely. As former Marine officer Anu Bhagwati told The Washington Post,

It’s the kind of environment where you’re being yelled at 24-7, where you’re terrified of everybody around you … How are you supposed to ask for help if you’re the victim of sexual assault?

Moreover, senior officers who have no legal training can decide whether court-martial charges can be brought—or whether a case is dismissed entirely. This total authority was demonstrated this year when Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin threw out a sexual assault conviction against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson and reinstated him without explanation. Franklin later issued a letter saying he dismissed the case because he thought Wilkerson, a “doting father and husband,” couldn’t possibly commit the “egregious crime of sexually assaulting a sleeping woman.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been at the center of the debate in the U.S. Senate over reforming the way the military deals with sexual assault, believes decisions on sexual assault cases should be taken outside the chain of command. She told senior attorneys for the Defense Department at a recent Senate hearing:

I don’t know how you can say having 19,000 sexual assault cases a year is discipline and order … It is the exact opposite of discipline and order.

Photo of dog tags courtesy of Flickr user Jon & Brigid under Creative Commons 2.0

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Ponta Abadi, a graduate of the University of Oregon, is a former Ms. intern. Follow her on Twitter.