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In a report last week, the Defense Department estimated that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, based on survey results. (AP Photo/File)

Local soldiers reflect on military sexual abuse allegations

A soldier assigned to coordinate a sexual assault prevention program in Texas is under investigation for "abusive sexual contact" and other alleged misconduct. He's been suspended from his duties, the Army announced Tuesday.

The allegations come on the heels of an Air Force officer who headed a sexual assault prevention office being arrested on charges of groping a woman in a parking lot last week.

The back-to-back Army and Air Force cases highlight a problem that is drawing increased scrutiny in Congress and expressions of frustration from top Pentagon leaders.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said after Tuesday's announcement that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is angry and disappointed at "these troubling allegations and the breakdown in discipline and standards they imply."

The allegations also concern our local current and former soldiers.

David from Tacoma is a current Army member, formerly in the Air Force, who told KIRO Radio's Luke Burbank, "Our recruiting standards have gone down dramatically. So we have a lot of great people in the military, but we have a lot of dirtbags as well."

David seemed to be talking about both men and women. He said he was falsely accused of sexual assault by a female soldier. She admitted she was being untruthful and was disciplined, and David was cleared of those charges.

But he said he witnessed a little bit of everything, including the many cases that were overlooked. "There are some females that have given false allegations and some units will see that - and when they get another allegation that's probably true, they're kind of tired of it and they sweep things under rugs."

Derek from Bellingham, a former Army member, said he watched one of his fellow soldiers, who had suffered sexual abuse, be ignored, and it ruined her. He blames a "good ol' boys club" mentality on the ongoing sexual assault cases happening in the military.

"If you've got it good with the commander and the first sergeant or whoever [in the] chain of command - they're going to protect you. You'll be able to slide on things that other soldiers who are not part of the good ol' clique will be prosecuted on. I think that's what the whole problem is."

In a report last week, the Defense Department estimated that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, based on survey results.

Of those, fewer than 3,400 reported the incident, and nearly 800 of them simply sought help but declined to file formal complaints against their alleged attackers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Alyssa Kleven, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Alyssa Kleven is an editor and content producer at MyNorthwest.com. She enjoys doting over her adorable dachshund Winnie - named for Arcade Fire front-man Win Butler.
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