The Pentagon is investigating charges that senior Navy officials “adversely affected the independence” of an internal probe into the “career paths” of those who claim to be victims of sexual assault.
The Department of Defense Inspector General said Wednesday that it is launching the inquiry after receiving “hotline allegations.” Carolyn Hantz, an official within the Pentagon’s primary watchdog, disclosed the opening of the investigation in a letter her naval counterparts.
“This evaluation will include but is not limited to reviewing relevant supporting documentation and interviews with personnel from the Naval Audit Service, Department of the Navy Office of General Counsel, and Naval Inspector General,” Hantz said.
The disclosure came the same day that the Department of Defense reported an increase last year in allegations of sexual assault at the US Naval and Army academies.
It also comes in the wake of a scandal involving the Marine Corps and misogyny–specifically the non-consensual circulation of nude photos of servicewomen. The Corps is overseen by the Navy.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday blasted Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Long an advocate for military sexual assault victims, Gillibrand noted that there had been reports dating back to 2013 of servicewomen saying they were being harassed by partners within the branch.
“You have demanded that you maintain control of all these issues, but where is the accountability for failure?” Gillibrand asked Gen. Neller. “I am very concerned that this is part of a culture that is resulting in the high levels of sexual assault.”
“I don’t have a good answer for you,” Neller replied. “I’m not going to sit here and duck around this thing, I’m not. I’m responsible.”
“I know you’ve heard it before,” Neller added, “but we are going to have to change how we see ourselves and how we treat each other.”