FORT BRAGG (AP) A decade after the Pentagon began confronting rape in the ranks, the U.S. military frequently fails to provide justice to the children of service members when they are sexually assaulted by other kids on base.
An Associated Press investigation finds that sex assault cases occurring where military kids live and learn often die on the desks of prosecutors. Criminal investigators shelved an unknown number of reports.
Instead of punishment or rehabilitation, offenders may be shuffled into the civilian world.
The Pentagon doesn’t know the extent of the problem. In North Carolina, records the military acknowledge are incomplete document at least 39 sex assaults among children or teens on bases since 2007. Camp Lejeune had the most reports with 22. Fort Bragg was second at 12.
At Camp Lejeune, a 9-year-old boy admitted to Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigators that he had fondled toddlers in his home and classmates at Heroes Elementary School. He said he couldn’t help himself.
Military child abuse specialists couldn’t help him either — they intervene only when the alleged abuser is a parent or other caretaker. A federal prosecutor twice declined to take action.
Heather Ryan is still haunted by a case at Camp Lejeune she worked when she was a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent.
A 10-year-old boy had confessed to sexually assaulting his two half-sisters. Ryan couldn’t get him help from the military’s vast support structure. Ultimately, his family transferred.
“I think of him a lot and wonder how he’s doing,” Ryan said, “and if he has hurt anybody else.”
Pentagon officials promised “appropriate actions.”