President Obama on Tuesday pledged to “step up our game” in preventing sexual assaults in the U.S. military, a vow that comes after the leader of the Air Force’s prevention unit was charged with groping a women in Northern Virginia.
In a press conference with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Obama said he instructed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to do more to prosecute sexual assault cases. Obama said he wanted victims to know they had the support of their commander in chief.
“I expect consequences,” Obama said. “So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable – prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”
Obama was forced to weigh in on the issue after Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who led the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response unit, was charged with sexual battery over the weekend.
According to Pentagon figures released Tuesday, sexual assaults in the military have risen by 35 percent since 2010. Analysts say that study showcases a problem that has gotten too little attention in recent years — but that more people are also reporting the crimes.