The three military fathers sat at the commander’s conference table on the U.S. Army base in Germany, pleading for help.
They told the commander that their daughters were among a half-dozen girls sexually assaulted by a boy in their first-grade class at the base school. The principal had known about the boy’s behaviour for months, they said, but the abuse continued.
The girls’ parents had already turned to Army police, military child-abuse authorities and sex-assault specialists. The response throughout the U.S. military’s vast support structure was always the same, they said: Sorry this has happened; there’s nothing we can do.
“It gives us a sense of hopelessness,” one of the fathers, a soldier, said. “We can only do so much as parents.”
Tens of thousands of children and teenagers live and attend school on U.S. military bases while their parents serve the country. Yet if they are sexually violated by a classmate, a neighbourhood kid or a sibling, they often get lost in a legal and bureaucratic netherworld . That’s because military law doesn’t apply to civilians, and the federal legal system that typically handles civilian crimes on base isn’t equipped or inclined to prosecute juveniles.
The Pentagon’s response to addressing this problem stands in contrast to how it cracked down on sexual assault in the ranks following congressional scrutiny more than a decade ago.
“If this would have been a soldier, things would have happened much differently,” the soldier’s wife said.
The Office of the Secretary of Defence said it “takes seriously any incident impacting the well-being” of soldiers and families and promised, without elaboration, “appropriate actions.”
The military’s school system — the Department of Defence Education Activity, or DoDEA — said it had “zero tolerance for sexual assault” and that an investigation of what happened at the German base school showed staff “took the appropriate actions …read more
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