The U.S. Department of Defense is struggling to change how it handles the abuse of military kids, including cases involving sexual assault by other children, according to a report commissioned by Congress.
The military has been slow to implement reforms that lawmakers mandated more than a year ago, said the report released Wednesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The Pentagon still doesn’t know the extent of child-on-child sexual assaults, in part because some officials dismiss incidents without reporting them and the Pentagon has no one place to track all cases that have been logged.
Worldwide, more than 1.2 million school-age children live with military families, many on large bases that include schools, recreation centers, playgrounds and other trappings of civilian life.
While the report credited the Pentagon and some armed services for making policy changes on paper, it concluded how ground-level change was lagging.
“I’d say their intentions are good. They’re starting to make progress,” said Brenda Farrell, the report’s primary author. “But it has a long way to go in order to get it to the point where they have oversight in place to be able to say that things are actually improving or that they’ve got this particular area under control.”
Lawmakers tasked Congress’ watchdog agency with doing its review after an Associated Press investigation detailed how justice failed both victims and offenders in child-on-child sexual assaults on bases.