An Air Force colonel's arrest in Arlington on sexual battery is causing outrage at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. The Air Force's top commander says he's appalled Lt. Colonel Jeffery Krusinki was arrested on Sunday. Krusinki was the chief sexual assault prevention officer. Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports on the rising number of military sexual assault cases and what the Pentagon plans to do about it.
The lieutenant colonel in charge of the U.S. Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office sexually assaulted a woman over the weekend, according to Arlington County police.
Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski was removed from his job Monday afternoon pending the outcome of an investigation, a senior defense official told NBC News. He started in the post in February, the Associated Press reported.
Krusinski, 41, was charged with misdemeanor sexual battery for allegedly approaching a woman in a parking lot in the Crystal City area and grabbing her breasts and buttocks about 12:30 a.m. Sunday. He was drunk, according to the police report.
The victim fought him off and called police, leaving scratches on Krusinski's face. She was able to land some punches, witnesses told a Crystal City bar owner.
Susie Doyle, a spokeswoman for the Arlington County Sheriff's Office, said Krusinski was released Sunday on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond, the Associated Press reported. An arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.
Krusinski's arrest created a firestorm at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Air Force Secretary Michael Donley about the matter and “expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement Monday. The spokesman said Hagel has been trying to raise the Pentagon's focus on sexual assault prevention and response and will soon announce new steps to address “this vile crime,” according to AP.
“Sexual assault has no place in the United States military,” Little said. “The American people, including our service members, should expect a culture of absolutely no tolerance for this deplorable behavior that violates not only the law, but basic principles of respect, honor, and dignity in our society and its military. Secretary Hagel is firmly committed to upholding the highest standards of behavior in America's armed forces and will take action to see this through.”
The Pentagon will immediately put revamped sex assault prevention and response measures in place, Hagel said.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the accusations against Krusinski underscore how far the Defense Department has to go to address sexual crimes in the military. He said at a hearing Tuesday that a Pentagon report to be released reportedly estimates that, on average, there are more than 70 sexual assaults involving military personnel every day. Based on anonymous surveys, the study showed the reports of unwanted sexual contact in the military increased from about 19,000 in 2010 to 26,000 last year. The number of sex assaults actually reported climbed by 6 percent in a year, with almost 3,400 cases last year, but commanders say the enormous difference between the numbers in the survey and the sex assault complaints made show victims are afraid to come forward.
Military personnel who engage in sexual assault betray the uniform they are wearing, President Barack Obama said. He directed Hagel to “step up our game exponentially” to halt such assaults.
Obama said he wanted members of the armed services to hear directly from their commander in chief that such behavior is not only unacceptable, but illegal and unpatriotic.
Military commanders say they are particularly troubled that the latest sexual assault case took place in the Pentagon’s backyard.
An Air Force website says the “Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program reinforces the Air Force's commitment to eliminate incidents of sexual assault through awareness and prevention training, education, victim advocacy, response, reporting and accountability.”
The website continues: “Sexual assault is criminal conduct. It falls well short of the standards America expects of its men and women in uniform.”