WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has ordered an investigation into reports of sexual assaults among troops stationed in Iraq and Kuwait, the Pentagon said Friday.
Rumsfeld directed David Chu, the Pentagon's undersecretary for personnel and readiness, to review military procedures for medical care for sexual assault victims and availability of ways for victims to report assaults, particularly in a combat area.
The reports consist of male soldiers accused of assaulting female counterparts.
"I am concerned about recent reports regarding allegations of sexual assaults on service members deployed to Iraq and Kuwait," Rumsfeld wrote to Chu in a memo, which the military provided to reporters. "Sexual assault will not be tolerated in the Department of Defense."
A defense official, who said the memo came in response to media reports about sexual assaults in the region, specifically a story by The Denver Post. The Post cited officials with the Miles Foundation (search), a Connecticut-based organization that assists victims of sexual or family violence who are connected to the military.
Some 37 women have told the Miles Foundation that they were assaulted by fellow military personnel while in Iraq or Kuwait during the last year, said Christine Hansen, executive director of the organization. Of those, several said they did not receive thorough medical care, access to chaplains and lawyers, or information on their rights, Hansen said in a telephone interview.
Only 11 of the women reported being assaulted to military authorities, Hansen said.
The defense official said the Army has recorded 80 cases of sexual misconduct during the year within the region managed by U.S. Central Command (search), which includes Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. The Air Force recorded seven cases.
However, sexual misconduct, in military terms, includes a variety of charges, from rape to consensual sodomy, the official said.
The official could not provide a further breakdown on the Army or Air Force figures.
The Marines recorded a single sexual assault. The Navy recorded none, the official said.
Chu has 90 days to report findings and recommendations. Military officials said they would fix any problems as soon as they were discovered.