Hagel expresses ‘outrage, disgust’ as Air Force leader charged with sexual battery

(CNN) – An Air Force officer who was a branch chief for the service’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program was arrested and charged with sexual battery over the weekend.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, has been removed from duty, an Air Force official said Monday. The official declined to be named because it is an ongoing law enforcement matter.

Krusinski was placed in charge of a section of the service’s sexual assault prevention and response program in February, running a five-person office, the Air Force official said.

The allegations against the Air Force officer come as the Defense Department prepared Tuesday to release its annual report on sexual assaults in the military.

CNN has learned that sexual assault reports to Defense Department authorities involving service members as either a victim or offender increased by about 6% from 2011 to 2012.

There were 3,192 reports in fiscal year 2011; there were 3,374 reports in fiscal year 2012.

But officials said that it is not clear whether that’s because of an increasing number of incidents or because victims are becoming more comfortable in reporting a crime that is often not reported.

Krusinski was arrested just after midnight Saturday in Arlington, Virginia, and is accused of grabbing a woman’s breasts and buttocks, Arlington County police said. Police said the woman fought off her assailant when he tried to grab her again before she called authorities.

Krusinski was held on a $5,000 bond. Arlington County police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said the woman did not know her attacker.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed the matter Monday with Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, according to the Pentagon.

“Secretary Hagel expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

Krusinski’s arrest comes as the Pentagon has been under closer scrutiny from Congress over its handling of sexual assault cases in the uniformed services.

“Sexual assault and rape are not about the weakness of the victim, they’re about power and control,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, said at a March hearing on the issue. “In a military context, that becomes an even greater problem.”

The Defense Department has stepped up efforts to hold perpetrators accountable, establishing a special victims unit to handle cases, working to improve tracking of reports and speeding transfers for troops who report a sexual assault by a member of their unit.

“Secretary Hagel has been directing the department’s leaders to elevate their focus on sexual assault prevention and response, and he will soon announce the next steps in our ongoing efforts to combat this vile crime,” Little said Monday. “Sexual assault has no place in the United States military.”

In March, members of the military who were sexually assaulted gave dramatic and anguishing testimony to congressional lawmakers. A former Army specialist described being raped in two different instances while she was in the service and how she felt that the military’s chain of command was failing at consistently prosecuting and convicting offenders.

High-ranking members of each branch assured lawmakers that they were working hard to end sexual assault in the armed forces.



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