Sunday, August 20, 2006
From The Associated Press…
Recruiters molest, rape potential enlistees
BY MARTHA MENDOZA
More than 100 young women who expressed interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters. Women were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams.
A six-month Associated Press investigation found that more than 80 military recruiters were disciplined last year for sexual misconduct with potential enlistees. The cases occurred across all branches of the military and in all regions of the country.
“This should never be allowed to happen,” said one 18-year-old victim. “The recruiter had all the power. He had the uniform. He had my future. I trusted him.”
1 in 200 recruiters disciplined
At least 35 Army recruiters, 18 Marine Corps recruiters, 18 Navy recruiters and 12 Air Force recruiters were disciplined for sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behavior with potential enlistees in 2005, according to records obtained by the AP under dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests. That’s significantly more than the handful of cases disclosed in the past decade.
The AP also found:
•The Army, which accounts for almost half of the military, has had 722 recruiters accused of rape and sexual misconduct since 1996.
•Across all services, one out of 200 frontline recruiters -- the ones who deal directly with young people -- was disciplined for sexual misconduct last year.
•Some cases of improper behavior involved romantic relationships, and sometimes those relationships were initiated by the women.
•Most recruiters found guilty of sexual misconduct are disciplined administratively, facing a reduction in rank or forfeiture of pay; military and civilian prosecutions are rare.
•The increase in sexual misconduct incidents is consistent with overall recruiter wrongdoing, which has increased from just over 400 cases in 2004 to 630 cases in 2005, according to a General Accounting Office report released this week.
Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke said the Pentagon, which has committed more than $1.5 billion to recruiting efforts this year, doesn’t track sexual misconduct cases among recruiters and had no comment on the AP’s findings. She referred the question to the military branches.
In the Army, 53 recruiters were charged with misconduct last year. Recruiting spokesman S. Douglas Smith said the Army has put much energy into training its staff to avoid these problems.
“To have 53 allegations in a year, while it is 53 more than we would want, is not indicative of the entire command of 8,000 recruiters,” he said.
For this story, victims were interviewed in their homes and perpetrators in jail; and the AP scoured police and court accounts of assaults and in one case portions of a victim’s journal.
A pattern emerged. The sexual misconduct almost always takes place in recruiting stations, recruiters’ apartments or government vehicles. The victims are typically between 16 and 18 years old, and they usually are thinking about enlisting. They usually meet the recruiters at their high schools, but sometimes at malls or recruiting offices.
“We had been drinking, yes. And we went to the recruiting station at about midnight,” begins one girl’s story.
Tall and slim, her long hair sweeping down her back, this 18-year-old from Ukiah, Calif., hides her face in her hands as she describes the night when Marine Corps recruiter Sgt. Brian Fukushima climbed into her sleeping bag on the floor of the station and took off her pants. Two other recruiters were having sex with two of her friends in the same room.
Fukushima was convicted of misconduct in a military court after other young women reported similar assaults. He left the service with a less-than-honorable discharge last fall.
In Indiana, where National Guard recruiter Sgt. Eric Vetesy has been charged with 31 counts of rape, sexual battery, official misconduct and corrupt business influence, military officials have instituted a new “No One Alone” policy to prevent further incidents.
Apparently the first of its kind in the country, the male Army National Guard recruiters in Indiana cannot be alone in offices, cars, or anywhere else with a female enlistee. If they are, they risk immediate disciplinary action. Recruiters also face discipline if they hear of another recruiter’s misconduct and don't report it.
“We’ve had a lot fewer problems,” said Lt. Col. Ivan Denton, commander of the Indiana Guard’s recruiting battalion. “It’s almost like we’re changing the culture in our recruiting.”