Military Malevolence: Sexual Assault Prevention Officer Charged with Heading Up Prostitution Ring

Highlighting for seemingly the millionth time just how shitty life can be for women in the military, the Army has charged a Texas sergeant with organizing a prostitution ring among cash-strapped female soldiers. And the kicker? The officer worked for the Fort Hood Sexual Harassment, Assault, and Response program.

Six witnesses testified as a part of a two-day hearing this week to determine whether Sergeant 1st Class Gregory McQueen should face a court-martial for 21 criminal charges filed in March. The charges range from pandering and adultery to sexual assault.  

On Tuesday, prosecutors called one of McQueen’s alleged victims to the stand. The woman, a private—i.e. the absolute bottom rung rank on the ladder of military hierarchy—testified that McQueen recruited her to have sex with other soldiers when she was just 20 years old. At the time, she was crippled by student loan debt and struggling to provide for herself and her toddler. Aware of her financial woes, McQueen solicited nude pictures from her with which he then tracked down higher-ranking soldiers willing to pay her for sex. Oh, and he also showed up at her on-post home and required that she “act out” on him what she planned to do to other soldiers who were prepared to offer money for sex acts.

One such soldier, Master Sgt. Brad Grimes, testified that McQueen showed him nude photos of the female private and arranged for them to meet up for intercourse. Grimes paid her $100 for the encounter, which the female soldier testified she spent on food for her three year-old. Currently there are at least two additional female soldiers involved in the prostitution allegations.

It may strike you that preying on young, vulnerable female soldiers with sex work solicitations might be the exact opposite of what's appropriate for a sexual harassment prevention worker. In perhaps the understatement of the year, a fellow employee in McQueen’s sexual assault prevention program confirmed in his testimony that McQueen’s actions had in fact “completely destroyed the confidence of the program,” and left soldiers too afraid to report abuses to senior leadership.

It makes us sick to utter it, but McQueen’s behaviors are far from unique within the broader U.S. military—which saw a 50% increase in reported sexual abuse cases in 2013. A report from the Pentagon estimates that 19,000 violent sexual crimes occur every year, of which 86.5% go unreported.

The low reporting rate likely has something to do with the fact that of those cases reported, less than one in ten even proceeds to trial, and even less results in a conviction. In one study, less than 2.5% of those charged with sexual assault faced any kind of punishment. Efforts earlier this year by Senator Gillibrand to reform the military criminal justice system concerning sexual assault failed to get off the ground. 

“We have a long way to go in solving this problem,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in May. 

No shit.

Image: ThinkStock

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