Fighting in the 'Invisible War' of rape in the military

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 1/31/2013, 4:37 p.m.

"Despite admonitions that the military has zero tolerance for rape, the military system supports a culture that values 'military character' over justice for victims," she said. "Unlike the civilian system, the defense may cross-examine victims, and previous sexual conduct is admissible evidence. It's no wonder so few victims report the crime."

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that military leaders at all levels must take responsibility to stop sexual assault. He noted the department has taken steps to strengthen sexual assault prevention. For example, he said, department policy now allows a sexual assault victim to rapidly transfer from an assigned unit where the assault happened.

"Any sexual assault has no place in the military. We have to do a better job at dealing with this," Panetta said. "If we don't take steps to deal with it--if we don't exercise better leadership to confront it--it'll get worse. And that's why it's really important that we take the responsibility to ensure that it doesn't have a place in the military. I have men and women in the military who put their lives on the line ... to protect this country. Surely we owe it to them to be able to protect them."