Lackland Air Force Base. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, has become the center of the nation’s biggest military sex abuse case in years. Over the past several months, a widespread sexual crime epidemic that began in 2009 has been uncovered at the camp, with twelve of 475 of the base’s instructors accused of either rape, sodomy and aggravated sexual assault, among other offenses, and thirty-one female trainees identified as victims.
Now dozens of lawmakers are calling for a Congressional hearing to investigate the incidents at Lackland. But there’s no sign that one will happen anytime soon.
Last week, West Texas’s Republican Congressman Mike Conoway said he didn’t think “congressional theater” would help anything. (Good to know he takes his job seriously). Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was a little less harsh—she first said a hearing was appropriate, then backed off a bit and told Fox News that Congress should let the military finish its investigation first.
Democratic Representative Jackie Speier fears that the military investigation will work to protect its own people, including the perpetrators. The number of cases being exposed at Lackland reflects a systematic failure of military leaders to report these crimes, she said. Speier therefore is pushing for an investigation that would be conducted outside the very system that allowed these crimes to happen.
As of Monday evening, seventy-seven Congressional representatives—including one Republican, Walter Jones—had signed on to a letter that Speier sent to House Armed Services chairman Buck McKeon and ranking member Adam Smith asking to hold a hearing to investigate the incident.
“How could such a repetitive widespread and sickening behavior still be occurring?” Speier said on the House Floor last month. “What is being uncovered at Lackland flies in the face of what we are being told by our military. Is this what zero tolerance means in the military?”
The stories that have emerged from Lackland are shocking.
At a hearing last month, two female former trainees told a courtroom that they were pressured to have sex with two of their male instructors. The men called them over the intercom under false pretense and asked them to leave their dorm rooms, then led them to a supply closet where one of the men had sexual intercourse with one of the women, while the other woman performed oral sex on the other male instructor.