An Associated Press investigation of over 1,000 reported sex crimes between 2005 and 2013 of U.S. military bases in Japan reveals that military officials are making "random and inconsistent judgments" when presented with sexual abuse cases across the Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force.
After reviewing Defense Department documents, the AP concluded that most offenders don't get prison time, that many are charged with lesser punishments than originally recommended and that it appears that there is a growing body of alleged victims "dropping out of investigations, either by recanting the allegations or simply declining to cooperate further."
The AP also found that the Marines was the most likely to prosecute and imprison offenders, while the Air Force was the least likely. In most cases, abusers are fined, demoted, instructed to stay on the military base (as if that's not where a huge percentage of their offenses take place to begin with), reprimanded via letter, given docked pay or removed from the military all together – not given jail time. In two rape cases, charges were dropped entirely after the commanders involved ignored recommendations to court-martial the alleged abusers.
It's the issue of commander oversight that has pushed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to continue advocating for her bill that would strip commanders of their supervision of rape or sexual assault cases abuse; Gillibrand's bill would remove the prosecuting of these cases from the military chain of command. She's still fighting against Senator Claire McCaskill and others who argue that McCaskill's alternative bill will better reform the system as it stands, not attempt to create a new way to prosecute. The vote for Gillibrand's bill is on Tuesday. McCaskill has said she will filibuster it.
In a video interview with the AP, Tina Wilson, a former member of the Air Force, described being inappropriately touched by Navy doctor Anthony Velasquez. After 10 months of investigation, her case was closed with no action taken. Two years later, after two dozen women came forward with similar stories, he was ultimately stripped of his medical license and made to leave the Navy. He spent a week in jail, though has had to register as a sex offender at home in Kentucky. A senior Navy attorney/commanding officer was fired due to his handling of the case as well.
"It was the process that victimized me more than the day that he violated me," Wilson said. "It was the process."