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THE NATION

Air Force Scrutinizes Assault Reports

March 10, 2004|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Prompted by nearly 100 accusations of rape involving its personnel in the Pacific region, the Air Force said Tuesday it had launched an investigation into how sexual assault reports were being dealt with.

The move is the latest in a growing number of incidents involving allegations of sexual attacks and alcohol abuse in the U.S. military.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last month also ordered an investigation into Pentagon measures to prevent sex attacks within the ranks after reports of male troops abusing female comrades in Iraq and Kuwait. The Army has launched a similar investigation of those incidents.

Air Force officials Tuesday confirmed a New York Times report that at least 92 accusations of rape involving Air Force personnel in the Pacific were reported to military authorities there from 2001 to 2003. The findings in a newly released study suggested there were major flaws in reporting sexual assault claims and in assisting victims.

Air Force officials Tuesday released a letter from Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the service's vice chief of staff, that ordered all major commands to assess sexual assault programs.

In the Feb. 24 letter, Moseley emphasized "striving to eliminate sexual assault and the climate that fosters it"; maintaining an environment where victims have confidence to report crimes; and the need for appropriate investigations and prosecutions.

The Air Force said that of 106 service members accused in the 92 cases cited in the report, 14 were tried by court-martial. Seven were convicted of rape and sentenced to an average of eight years in prison. More than 40 others received lesser punishments such as demotions, letters of reprimand or lost pay. Many cases are pending, officials said.

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