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.
Sexual violence occurs anywhere children and teens gather on base – homes, schools, playgrounds, food courts, even a chapel bathroom. Many cases get lost in a dead zone of justice, with neither victim nor offender receiving help.
“These are the children that we need to be protecting, the children of our heroes,” said Heather Ryan, a former military investigator.
The tens of thousands of kids who live on bases in the U.S. and abroad are not covered by military law. The U.S. Justice Department, which has jurisdiction over many military bases, isn’t equipped or inclined to handle cases involving juveniles, so it rarely takes them on.