Photo: AP

The AP has published an investigation into sexual assault cases on U.S. military bases where children have been assaulted by other children. Apparently, neither the military or the Justice Department are doing anything about it.

The AP reports:

A decade after the Pentagon began confronting rape in the ranks, the U.S. military frequently fails to protect or provide justice to the children of service members when they are sexually assaulted by other children on base, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Reports of assaults and rapes among kids on military bases often die on the desks of prosecutors, even when an attacker confesses. Other cases don’t make it that far because criminal investigators shelve them, despite requirements they be pursued.

The Pentagon does not know the scope of the problem and does little to track it. AP was able to document nearly 600 sex assault cases on base since 2007 through dozens of interviews and by piecing together records and data from the military’s four main branches and school system.

Because children who live on bases aren’t covered under U.S. military law, the task of investigating would fall to the Justice Department, which the AP says “isn’t equipped or inclined” to prosecute. According to the report, federal prosecutors pursued just “roughly one in seven juvenile sex cases that military investigators presented” out of about 100 cases reviewed by the organization.

In one case, Leandra Mulla filed a report four years ago as a high school freshman, after an ex-boyfriend “dragged her to a secluded area and thrust his hand down her pants while forcibly trying to kiss her.” According to the AP, she “still wonders what came of that report.”

In other cases, nothing was done even when the attacker admitted to the crime:

In North Carolina, at Camp Lejeune, the coastal training ground for U.S. Marines, a 9-year-old boy admitted to Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigators that he had fondled toddlers in his home and classmates at Heroes Elementary School. He said he couldn’t help himself.

Military child abuse specialists couldn’t help him either — they intervene only when the alleged abuser is a parent or other caretaker. A federal prosecutor twice declined to take action.

Advertisement

The Defense Department told the AP in a statement that it “takes seriously any incident impacting the well-being of our service members and their families,” but called child-on-child sexual assault “an emerging issue.” The AP, however, said that military lawyers have been sounding the alarm “about a juvenile justice black hole since the 1970s.”

The findings of the AP’s investigation just add to the military’s already terrible reputation when it comes to handling sexual assault cases.

The Pentagon said last year that it had received a record number of reports of sexual assault in 2016, which it argued was evidence that survivors were gaining confidence in the system. But in September 2017, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York released her third annual report on sexual assault in the military, which found that “despite years of Congressional reforms, our men and women in uniform still do not have confidence in the military justice system.”