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The Nation Piece Criticizes Congressional Response To Sexual Assault Reports at Lackland Air Force Base

The Nation Piece Criticizes Congressional Response To Sexual Assault Reports at Lackland Air Force Base

July 19, 2012 — Despite calls from dozens of lawmakers for a congressional hearing to investigate reports of sexual abuse at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, "there's no sign that one will happen anytime soon," Soumya Karlamangla writes in The Nation.

The base "has become the center of the nation's biggest military sex abuse case in years," with "12 of 475 of the base's instructors accused of either rape, sodomy and aggravated sexual assault, among other offenses, and 31 female trainees identified as victims" in cases dating to 2009, Karlamangla explains. The first court martial -- of a staff sergeant who faces 28 counts, including rape, adultery and aggravated sexual assault -- began on Monday.

As of Monday evening, 77 members of Congress had signed a letter sent by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) to House Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) calling for a hearing, according to Karlamangla.

Karlamangla notes that Rep. Mike Conoway (R-Texas) last week said "he didn't think 'congressional theater' would help anything" and that Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said "'there is no evidence of a widespread problem,' but if there is, Congress should step in."

"What evidence of a problem could Thornberry be waiting for?" Karlamangla asks. She notes that "[a]ccording to the Department of Defense, one in four women who join the military will be raped or sexually assaulted" (Karlamangla, The Nation, 7/17).