A key point in last year's Academy Award nominated documentary "The Invisible War" was that the military was structurally incapable of adequately policing sexual assault in the armed services. As if to bolster the filmmakers' case, the Air Force officer in charge of its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Branch has been arrested and charged with sexual battery.
"The DoD estimates that, on average, there are more than 50 sexual assaults involving military personnel each day. The only thing unusual about this particular assault is that the accused was actually arrested and charged, and that senior officers in his chain of command cannot intervene to prevent his prosecution," Kirby Dick, the director of "The Invisible War," told CQ Roll Call. His film's key tenet is that the military does not follow standard criminal justice procedures in sexual assault cases, keeping them within the chain of command, and that this has helped lead to an epidemic of sexual assault in the armed forces.
An Air Force spokeswoman confirmed Krusinski's rank and position as chief of the service’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Branch. He was immediately removed from the position “upon Air Force awareness” of the charges. Right now, the matter is still under local jurisdiction. “At this point, we’re new in the loop, too,” the spokeswoman said.
The Pentagon has come under withering criticism for how it handles sexual assault in the ranks. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta cited "The Invisible War" as spurring him to review the procedures for investigating military sexual assaults. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is further reviewing the military's procedures for investigating and prosecuting such cases.
Members of Congress have also pushed for changes, including Reps. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio; Niki Tsongas, D-Mass.; Ted Poe, R-Texas; and Jackie Speier, D-Calif., as well as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., among others, as Roll Call reported in March.
In an interview with CQ Roll Call last year, Amy Ziering, the co-writer and producer of the film, said the issue is not just a moral one, but a readiness issue.
“It’s not only morally wrong, but you’re actually damaging the military’s strength. ... The military is smart and it really doesn’t want that to happen,” she said at the time.
Dick and Ziering both think Congress should step in immediately. "While the military has, of late, been claiming that it is intent on addressing the epidemic of sexual assaults within its ranks, how serious is it about doing so if a perpetrator of these crimes is the head of an Air Force program designed to address and stem them? The single most important step Congress can take to stop the proliferation of these crimes is to get behind Senator Gillibrand's efforts to remove the decision to prosecute from the chain of command," they said in a joint statement to CQ Roll Call.
In fact, Gillibrand tweeted Monday evening: "I'll introduce a bill in the US Senate next week to reform the way the military handles cases of sexual assault & other violent crimes."