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Stung by a spiraling number of sexual assaults in the military and a string of scandals, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered all the services to conduct a sweep of workspaces across every military installation to eliminate anything that might be degrading or offensive.
His order mirrors that of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh in November after a female technical sergeant reported finding sexually explicit songs on the server of a public computer — and as a growing number of training instructors at basic faced charges of sexual assaults and inappropriate relationships with trainees.
The Air Force’s two-week inspection yielded 32,000 confiscated items; most were magazines and calendars depicting half-dressed women, but some
were pornographic photos and
While leaders acknowledge there may not be a direct link between provocative pictures and sexual assaults, there simply is no valid reason for them to be present in the workplace. Graphic material, no matter how “tame,” is considered by many men and women as offensive.
Inspectors will often have to make judgment calls — some nonoffensive material could be confiscated by the overzealous.
Commanders will have to closely manage the process to protect individual rights while carrying out the intent of the order.
But with an anonymous survey showing an average of 70 service members being sexually assaulted per day — and only 11 percent reporting it — leaders must take aggressive action to convince victims that their reports will be taken seriously and dealt with fairly.
That will be a major step toward reversing this unacceptable trend.