News & Politics

Amid Sexual Assault Crisis in Military, Sergeant Accused of Filming West Point Cadets in the Bathroom

A Pentagon survey revealed 26,000 reports of sexual assault in the military in 2012.

An Army sergeant on staff at West Point is accused of filming at least twelve women without their consent, including in the bathroom and shower, The New York Times reports.

According to the Associated Press, Sgt. 1st Class Michael McClendon faces charges of “dereliction of duty, mistreatment, entering a women's bathroom without notice, and taking and possessing inappropriate photos and videos of women who were naked or in various states of undress.”

The allegations come amid increased attention over endemic sexual assault in the U.S. military. A Pentagon study released this month revealed that there were 26,000 reports of sexual assault in the military in 2012, up 30 percent from 2010. As severalsourcesnoted, just 3,374 of those cases were reported. Of those few reported cases, only 10 percent were brought to trial, suggesting a culture in which most perpetrators of sexual assault receive impunity.

The New York Times reports Sergeant McClendon’s role at the U.S.'s most prestigious military university as "tactical noncommissioned officer," making his alleged crimes all the more troublesome. Just as the military saw three sexual assault prevention officers accused of sexual assault or harassment this month alone, McClendon’s case involves a supposed moral authority egregiously violating moral standards. Via The Times:

Sergeant McClendon served as a tactical noncommissioned officer, a position described in academy personnel documents as a staff adviser “responsible for the health, welfare and discipline” of a company of 125 cadets. The person in the position is expected to “assist each cadet in balancing and integrating the requirements of physical, military, academic and moral-ethical programs.

The AP reports that McClendon was relieved of his duties a year ago, citing “complexities of the case and the effort to recover the forensic evidence” as the Army’s reason for delaying formal charges. During this time, the sergeant was ordered to stop contact with cadets and prohibited from entering cadet areas at his post.

Last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced new steps to address the U.S. military’s sexual assault problem, including a complete review of all 25,000 people involved with its sexual assault program. Hagel has also proposed to stop letting U.S. commanders overturn criminal convictions. A Senate bill by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) would go even further, removing major criminal cases, including cases of sexual assault, from the military chain of command.

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.

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