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The Boston Globe

Opinion

JULIETTE KAYYEM

Pentagon’s sexual assault conundrum

Feeling outrage over the increasing prevalence of sexual assault in the military is understandable, but too easy. How hard is it, really, to become indignant when Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, the Air Force’s head of its sexual assault prevention division, was arrested for groping a woman last week? The next day, a report based on a 2012 survey showed that 26,000 personnel — mostly women, but including a few men — had “unwanted sexual contact,” a 35 percent increase over 2010. In most cases, no formal charges were brought, maybe because the likes of Krusinski were within the reporting structure.

The evidence forced President Obama to bluntly tell Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to “step up our game exponentially,” an unfortunate reference since it appears that some in the military view sexual misconduct as a kind of sport. Then again, to treat it like an epidemic is too forgiving, as if a virus suddenly overwhelmed the Pentagon’s ability to respond. The military’s true commitment will be tested this Wednesday when the service branches report back on their plans for full and equal participation of women, following the end of rules excluding them from combat.

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