At the commencement services for the US Naval Academy, President Barack Obama spoke to the next batch of Naval officers about the problem of sexual assault within the ranks. The Navy’s problems with sexual assault have been public since the Tailhook Scandal back in the 1980′s.
Speaking to the graduating cadets, President Obama stated that “Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong.” He went on to say that “we have to be determined to stop these crimes because they’ve got no place in the greatest military on Earth.”
Sexual assault in the military affects both men and women. The Pentagon estimates that there were at most 26,000 sexual assaults in the ranks last year, but the number of reported sexual assaults is much smaller. Still, there has been a growing number of sexual assaults being reported, with the apparent jump in reports being among men.
While the Family Research Council has blamed the jump in reports on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it actually appears that the repeal has had the affect of allowing men who have been sexually assault the comfort of being able to report the assaults without being at risk of being thought to be gay and being drummed out of the military.
Obama has ordered the Pentagon to address the problem, and Congress is working on possible changes to the military justice system.
During his address, Obama told the Naval graduates that the military remains the most trusted institution in America, but that the sexual assault problem is undermining that. A parallel can be drawn with the way in which the Catholic Church was badly damaged because of their own sexual assault problems.
Obama also stated that “You’ve met the mission of this academy. You’ve met every test before you.. . .You will lead this country. And if we want to restore the trust that the American people deserve to have in their institutions, all of us have to do our part. And those of us in leadership, myself included, have to constantly strive to remain worthy of the public trust.”
The President rotates between the academies every year, addressing just one each year.