The US Air Force is at the centre of a sex scandal after 31 female trainees were identified as victims of sexual misconduct and harassment, including rape. Sexual abuse allegedly took place at the hands of a senior group of old instructors at the Lackland Air Base, the largest base of the country. Investigations of allegations related to sexual misconduct began in October last year when a female came forward complaining that her friend had been a victim of sexual misconduct while she was at the base. When the scope of investigations widened in November, it became clear that the problem was far more serious than to what was being assumed.
In his recent statement Gen. Edward Rice, commander of Air Force training, warned that the number of victims can increase as further investigations are conducted. He said: "We are taking a comprehensive look not only at the cases that we know, but trying to do the best we can to assess whether or not there are other cases out there." So far Staff Sgt. Luis Walker and Staff Sgt. Peter Vega-Maldonado have been convicted on the charges of sexual assault or having inappropriate relationship with a female trainee. Walker is facing court-martial on 28 charges, whereas, Vega-Maldonado was sentenced to 90 days in prison after he confessed of having inappropriate sexual relations with 10 different trainees.
It is shocking to state that according to the own statistics revealed by the Defense Department of US, 3,191 cases of sexual assault took place in all branches of US armed forces in the year 2011 alone. However, 80% of such cases go unreported. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta estimates that as many as 19,000 cases related to sexual assault occur every year in US military, but less than 8% of cases go to court-martial.
Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps officer further unveils the horror of the entire problem by saying that Marine Corps have plied underage alcohols with girls before raping them, telling them they needed to have sex in order to become Marines. Out of all other military wings the situation encountered by US Air Force is the worst. At the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, it was estimated that one in eight female cadets were victims of rape or attempted rape in 2003.
Appallingly, in many cases their attackers usually faced no punishment. Even though strict corrective measures were taken that resulted in sharp drop of such cases, however, it seems that the problem hasn’t gone away completely. In January, three male cadets were charged with separate sexual assault cases.
The looming gravity of the situation requires an urgent and concrete solution to the problem so that females, their dignity and status can be respected and safeguarded.