Hundreds of military kids are sexually assaulted each year, most often by service members — friends and colleagues of their parents, for example — and the scope of the problem, and how the military is dealing with it, is unclear due to the military’s secrecy when it comes to disciplinary proceedings, the Associated Press is reporting.
Data provided by the Department of Defense shows that between 2010 and 2014, there were at least 1,584 substantiated cases of sexual abuse against children of military service members. In 840 of those cases, the perpetrators of the assaults were male enlisted service members; in 332 cases, the perpetrators were the victims family members. Officers were responsible for 49 such cases. The overwhelming majority of military kids being sexually assaulted were female.
Although the data does give a somewhat clearer picture of the problem of sexual assault among military kids, it also demonstrates the Defense Department’s commitment to secrecy when it comes to this problem. The ages of perpetrators and victims, for example, were omitted from the report, as were the locations of the sexual assaults. The Pentagon says this information needs to be kept secret because releasing it publicly would “re-victimize” some of the victims.
“Information that could unintentionally uniquely identify victims was withheld from release to eliminate possible ‘re-victimization’ of the innocent.”
The report also does not say how many of the alleged sexual assaults result in legal action against the perpetrators. Further, the details of the military’s internal justice system is largely kept from the public, meaning it’s difficult to track the extent of any one perpetrator’s crimes, or how much time he spent behind bars.
One such perpetrator, whose name was omitted in the report, was identified by the AP as Marine Cpl. Aaron C. Masa. The AP was able to identify him by matching the dates of his crimes in the report with the dates of his crimes revealed in court martial proceedings.
During training in Camp Lejeune, Masa and a fellow Marine struck up a friendship.
Even before joining the Marines, Masa’s past was checkered. He was described in the report as a “loner” and an “oddball.” He was bullied in high school; in 2008, he was arrested for threatening to bring a gun to his school. After he graduated, near the bottom of his class, he joined the Marines; the Marine Corps says that his arrest did not disqualify him from the service, and that he passed a rigorous mental, physical, and moral evaluation.
By 2013, Masa had earned the trust of a fellow Marine sergeant. Masa loaned him money, chopped wood with him, even babysat his friend’s daughters — a three-year-old and an infant — from time to time.
The girls’ mother began to suspect something was amiss when the older girl complained of pain in her privates. She would later tell a neighbor that Masa touched her in her privates and made it hurt. The girl began having nightmares.
Eventually, Masa was taken into custody. During interrogation, he drew a map of the victim’s home and marked out all of the places where he had sexually abused the older girl. He also admitted to taking sexually explicit photos of both girls.
In 2015, Masa was convicted of sexual abuse of a child and production of child pornography. He is currently serving 30 years behind bars at U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Three senators — Barbara Boxer of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii — sent an open letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter expressing concern that the Defense Department may be underestimating the scope and size of the problem of sexual assault in the military, particularly when it comes to military kids.
[Image via Shutterstock/SunCity]