A Georgia senator suggested Tuesday that the dismaying rate of sexual assaults in the military may simply be due to the “hormones” of youthful soldiers.
“The young folks that are coming into each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22, or 23,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on military sexual assaults. “Gee whiz, the level -- the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur. So we've got to be very careful of how we address it on our side.”
Soon after Chambliss made his claim, fellow legislators from both parties quickly spoke out to correct him. A fellow Republican, Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, who is co-chairman of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, was among the first.
“It’s simple; criminals are responsible for sexual assaults, not hormones,” Turner said in a press release sent to Fox News. “Perpetuating this line of thinking does nothing to help change the culture of our military. We must be focused on combating this issue directly. The numbers speak for themselves.”
Democrats also piled on Chambliss, calling his comments dismissive toward survivors of rape and sexual assault. CNN reports that Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida, head of the Democratic National Committee, has called on Chambliss to apologize.
"For a United States senator, or anyone, to write off sexual assault and the personal violation of a woman or a man to the raging hormones of youth shows just how dramatically out of touch the Republican Party is," she said. "I think he should think about whether if, God forbid, a sexual assault happened to a daughter of his, would he think it was OK for a senator to just chalk the assault up to raging hormones?"
According to the New York Times, at the same hearing, nearly every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified that the military must act to clamp down on increasing sexual assaults in the ranks. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., advised that women hold off on joining the military until its leaders are able to control the problem, NBC reports.
The Defense Department has estimated that more than 26,000 active service members were sexually assaulted in 2012, a 30 percent increase compared to the estimated 19,300 sexual assaults that occurred in 2010. The sexual assaults aren’t simply coming from young recruits as Chambliss suggests, either. Last month, the chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention program was himself arrested for sexually assaulting a woman in a parking garage. The offender, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, is 41.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has vowed to combat the increasing amounts of sexual assaults in the military. “This scourge must be stamped out,” Hagel said during a commencement address at West Point last month. “We are all accountable and responsible for ensuring that this happens. We cannot fail the Army or America. We cannot fail each other, and we cannot fail the men and women that we lead.”
Watch a video of Chambliss’ statements on military sexual assault below.