Two US air force trainers have been sentenced in connection with a widening sexual abuse scandal at one of the busiest military training centers in the nation.
Investigators say at least 38 female trainees were victimised at the Lackland Air Force Base in the US state of Texas. Fifteen instructors have been implicated.
Last year, nearly 3,200 rapes and sexual assaults were officially reported, but the Pentagon admits that represents just 15 per cent of all incidents.
A military survey revealed that one in five women in the US forces has been sexually assaulted, but most do not report it. Nearly half said that they “did not want to cause trouble in their unit”.
A former army nurse told a member of the US Congress that during her tours in Iraq and Afghanistan she was more afraid of being attacked by her fellow soldiers than she was of the enemy.
But many of those attacked are men. In 2010 nearly 50,000 male veterans screened positive for “military sexual trauma” at the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
In April, Leon Panetta, the US defense secretary, announced new steps to deter assaults and make it easier to prosecute offenders. But some argue a military culture that makes it difficult for crimes to be reported is standing in the way of meaningful change.
Paula Coughlin-Puopolo, a former Lieutenant in the US Navy, was groped by at least 200 men at a convention of navy and marine corps aviators in 1991. She went public and what was known as the Tailhook scandal ensued. But no one was punished.
So what can be done to tackle widespread sexual abuse in the military? And why has the Pentagon failed to curb sexual misconduct and abuse in the armed forces?