Chuck Hagel to West Point Cadets: Sexual Assault Is a 'Profound Betrayal'
Speaking at the commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told cadets that sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a "profound betrayal" and charged them with the responsibility to stamp out the sexual assault problem plaguing the military.
"You will need to not just deal with these debilitating, insidious and destructive forces but rather you must be the generation of leaders that stops it. This will require your complete commitment to building a culture of respect and dignity for every member of the military and society," Hagel said as he delivered the commencement address at West Point. "Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal, a profound betrayal of sacred oaths and sacred trusts. This scourge must be stamped out."
"We are all accountable and responsible for ensuring that this happens. We cannot fail the Army or America. We cannot fail each other, and we cannot fail the men and women that we lead," he said.
Hagel's remarks at the esteemed military academy came during the same week as a U.S. Army sergeant was accused of secretly taking dozens of photos and videotaping naked female West Point cadets over five years.
President Obama addressed the issue of sexual assault in his speech at the commencement ceremonies for the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Friday, telling the graduates that there is "no place" for sexual assaults in the military.
"We must acknowledge that even here, even in our military, we've seen how the misconduct of some can have effects that ripple far and wide," Obama said at the Naval Academy commencement ceremony Friday. "Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that make our military strong. That's why we have to be determined to stop these crimes, because they've got no place in the greatest military on Earth."
Over the past month, the military has dealt with a number of sexual assault scandals, causing military leaders and the president to speak out against the problem.
Earlier this month, the lieutenant colonel in charge of the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was arrested for alleged sexual battery, and the Army announced that the coordinator of a sexual assault prevention program at Fort Hood, Texas, was under investigation "for pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates."
The Pentagon reported this month that 26,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2012, a 37 percent increase since last year.
The figure, coupled with the recent sexual assault cases involving those charged with leading programs to prevent such incidents, led Hagel to order the retraining, re-credentialing and re-screening of all sexual assault prevention coordinators and military recruiters.
Several members of Congress have proposed legislation aiming to stop the sexual assaults occurring in the military.
Earlier this month, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill which would take the prosecution of sexual assaults in the military out of the chain of command, preventing commanders from handling the cases of their subordinates.