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Texas sexual abuse investigations ongoing at Lackland air base

Victims of sexual abuse endure many phases of physical and emotional healing. However, those injuries run one step deeper when the assault occurs at the hands of a military superior. Military personnel are trained to take orders without question from their superior officers. Such trust in authority and in one another is what is believed to make the organization stronger. Yet, when such a violation of trust is perpetrated by a person of authority the abuse goes beyond the direct victim. It is a form of abuse that impacts everyone in the unit in some capacity.

Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio is under fire. The threat is not from outside the military basic training facility but from inside the base, where instructors have been charged with sexual abuse.

Almost 36,000 Air Force trainees graduate each year after entering the base’s eight-week training program. A staff of 475 instructors is responsible for weekly graduations of thousands of trainees. Some of these instructors are men who have been accused of sexual assault over the last year.

Sexual misconduct allegations have been brought against four instructors at the Texas base. An Air Force staff sergeant faces a court-martial this summer and possible life in prison. He is accused of 28 counts of aggravated sexual assault and rape.

Three other instructors have been charged with sexual misbehavior, including adultery. A staff sergeant recently pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with a female trainee. A plea deal put the instructor in prison for three months. The trainer later admitted having sex with 10 trainees.

Lackland Air Force Base officials have been conducting a criminal investigation since last fall, later supplemented by an internal probe by a two-star general. Base operations were suspended for an entire day to survey nearly 6,000 trainees about their knowledge of any sexual abuse at the facility.

Military prosecutors said more airmen could face sexual abuse charges.

A tour invitation recently was extended by base commanders to the media. Reporters were shown where instructor training classes took place and talked with members of the training staff. Some trainers said that sexual misconduct allegations were not as much of a military problem as they were a personal values issue among individuals.

Victims of sexual assault in the military can request a humanitarian discharge. Lackland Air Force Base has not reported whether known victims of abuse engaged private attorneys or took advantage of the military’s offer.

Several dozen instructors were fired at the base since the sexual misconduct investigation began, including the recent dismissal of a squadron commander. Officials said most of the instructor removals were not related to the sex abuse charges.

Source: cbsnews.com, "Widening sex scandal rocks Texas air force base," Paul J. Weber, June 26, 2012

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