These assaults must end

Many senior leaders in the armed forces admit the military has a serious problem in how it handles sexual assaults. Why isn’t something being done about it?

An Associated Press investigation of more than 1,000 reports of sex crimes involving U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan during a period of about eight years revealed a disturbing pattern. In scores of cases in which sexual assaults undoubtedly occurred, the offenders received slap-on-the-wrist punishments.

AP reporters found records of punishments of 244 service members who committed sexual assaults during the eight-year period.

Of that number, nearly two-thirds were not incarcerated at all. Their punishments included being fined, demoted in rank, confined to base or kicked out of the military. More than 30 of the perpetrators escaped any penalty except for having letters of reprimand placed in their files.

As the AP noted, victims of sexual assault in the military sometimes refuse to cooperate with investigators – possibly because they have no confidence justice will be done. No wonder.

President Barack Obama is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He should order – not ask, but order – that the military do more to deter sexual assaults.