Chaplains representing every branch of the U.S. military and many faiths gathered on Wednesday to discuss everything from counseling stressed-out soldiers to a recent lawsuit charging the military neglects a sexually abusive culture.
“Yes, there is sexual abuse. They said it is not attributable to the culture fostered by the Department of Defense, it is attributable to the culture of our society,” said the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, who helped lead the discussion held in the House of Representatives’ Cannon Office Building.
In a federal lawsuit, outlined in the New York Times, 17 current or former service members portrayed the military as allowing a sexually charged culture that fails to prevent or punish incidents of rape and sexual abuse. The chaplains’ view echoed that of a Defense Department spokesman that sexual assault is a wider societal problem, but was a priority of the military.
The repeated deployments of U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade has taken a toll on psyches, making it difficult for the roughly 2,000 U.S. Army chaplains and hundreds more in other branches, Gaddy said.