The officer in charge of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention program has been arrested — for sexual assault.
According to an Arlington, Va., crime report, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski was arrested early Sunday morning for sexual battery after Krusinski “approached a female victim in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks.” Krusinski was, until his arrest, the chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program. Sexual assault is rampant in the military, making Krusinski’s arrest all the more worrying.
An Arlington County Police spokesman told Reuters that Krusinski had been drinking and confronted the woman inside a parking garage outside of the Crystal City area of Arlington. There, Krusinski allegedly groped the woman and tried to restrain her, when she escaped and called the police. Krusinski was arrested and held on $5,000 bond.
After the arrest was made public, officials for the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program confirmed to Reuters that Krusinski had been fired from his position.
On Monday night, the Defense Department released a statement on the issue, and while it did not mention Krusinski by name, it strongly condemned rampant sexual assault in the military.
“This evening Secretary [Chuck] Hagel spoke to Air Force Secretary [Michael] Donley about allegations of misconduct involving an Air Force officer who had been responsible for the service’s sexual assault and prevention efforts and was removed today from his position pending the outcome of an investigation," the statement read. "Secretary Hagel expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively. Secretary Hagel has been directing the Department’s leaders to elevate their focus on sexual assault prevention and response, and he will soon announce next steps in our ongoing efforts to combat this vile crime.”
Reuters reports that between September 2010 and 2011, 3,192 cases of sexual assault were reported across different branches of the military. Some Pentagon officials have suggested that the actual number of sexual assaults is much higher — possibly as high as 19,000 each year — due to victims’ unwillingness to report the crime.
The Air Force has a particularly bad problem with sexual assault. In 2011, there were 59 cases of drill instructors sexually assaulting their recruits. To combat this, the Air Force began its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, but taking Krusinski’s arrest into account, it appears the service may be in even worse shape than previously thought.
“The Air Force 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,” according to its website. “The Air Force promotes sensitive care and confidential reporting for victims of sexual assault and accountability for those who commit these crimes.”
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has publicly stated that if the military does not take drastic steps to deal with the issue of sexual assault, the problem will only become worse.
“If we don’t take steps to deal with it -- if we don’t exercise better leadership to confront it -- it’ll get worse,” Panetta said in an interview with NBC. “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.”
Eric Brown is an IBTimes political reporter who eats far too much pizza. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and currently resides in Brooklyn.