WASHINGTON -- Two months after the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps unveiled a plan to stop an epidemic of sexual assault in the ranks, Gen. James Amos said the problem was "probably one of the most challenging things I have to deal with as a service chief."
Amos, appearing at the National Press Club, spoke at length of his efforts to reverse soaring numbers of rapes and sexual assaults against female Marines. In June, the Corps reported 333 sexual assaults in the previous fiscal year. "Despite our efforts, we have been ineffective at addressing and eliminating" a scourge that has plagued installations from coast to coast, Amos wrote then.
The sexual assaults, Amos said in a memo to every Marine, are “an ugly mark on our proud reputation.”
In May, after efforts to deal with the problem failed, Amos convened an operational planning team that he likened to those formed to launch a battle campaign. Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women's Action Network and a former Marine officer, said the team's long-overdue plan showed the Marine Corps "has finally caught up to where the rest of the DOD leadership is, which isn't saying that much."
The problem of military sexual assault is not limited to the Marine Corps. Lackland Air Force Base in Texas has been rocked by a sex scandal involving male instructors who preyed on female recruits and women from across the military have spoken of their own battles with rape and sexual abuse in a recent documentary called "The Invisible War".
Amos said he has demanded "buy-in from the very top" of the Corps to eradicate sexual assault. He said generals, colonels and senior non-commissioned officers now lead classes to foster an atmosphere where sexual harassment is not tolerated and reporting abuses is not punished.
"Where are we headed? We're headed to zero," Amos said. "Will we get there? I don't know. We're part of society."
The Marine Corps is the most male and arguably the most macho of the service branches. Just 13,700 of 200,000 Marines are women. Of 85 general officers in the service, only four are female -- including the commander of the storied Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C.
The renewed effort to end sexual abuse in the ranks comes at a crucial moment. Next month, the infantry officer class at Quantico, Va., will get its first two female Marines, part of a larger Pentagon effort to open more military jobs to women.
"I look every single male Marine in the eye that I could and I said, 'You need to understand that my females are just as important to me as our males are,'" Amos said. "This is a fight. It's not going to be won this year. It's not going to be won next year. But I'm absolutely bound and determined to do something about this. ... Females have to be confident enough in the leadership to come forward and say this happened and not be afraid.
"This is a personal thing with me," Amos said to applause. "We intend to turn it around."
Anthony Weiner's Online Romance
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) was forced to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/16/anthony-weiner-resigns_n_878229.html" target="_hplink">resign</a> following a lengthy media investigation triggered after he accidentally sent his Twitter followers a picture of himself in his underwear. In the aftermath of the initial tweet, Weiner <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/31/anthony-weiner-twitter_n_869008.html" target="_hplink">claimed</a> that his account had been hacked, but subsequent developments showed that he had contacted a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/16/anthony-weiner-photos-women_n_878211.html" target="_hplink">number of other women</a> online, at times engaging in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/07/anthony-weiner-facebook-chats_n_872783.html" target="_hplink">raunchy conversation</a>.
Eliot Spitzer Client Number 9
In March 2008, a federal investigation revealed that Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-N.Y.) had habitually patronized a high-priced prostitution agency, spending up to $80,000 on the service.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mistress
Revelations surfaced earlier this year that the former California governor and movie star had <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/18/arnold-schwarzeneggermild_n_863882.html" target="_hplink">fathered a child</a> with his maid during an affair that took place during the 1990s. The child is now in his teens. In a statement to the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-me-0517-arnold-20110517,0,312678.story" target="_hplink"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a> in May, Schwarzenegger confessed to the relationship: <blockquote>"After leaving the governor's office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago," Schwarzenegger said Monday night in a statement issued to <em>The Times</em> in response to questions. "I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry."</blockquote>
Mark Sanford's Secret Trip To Buenos Aires
When Governor Mark Sanford (R- S.C.) went missing for a few days in June 2009 he said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. He later confessed he was actually in Argentina visiting his "soul mate." He and his wife have since gotten divorced.
Eric Massa's Tickling
Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/05/eric-massa-resigning-new_n_487870.html" target="_hplink">resigned</a> in 2010 following <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/03/eric-massa-to-retire-new_n_484288.html" target="_hplink">mounting questions</a> about his conduct that culminated in a House ethics investigation of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/04/eric-massa-house-ethics-p_n_486424.html" target="_hplink">harassment allegations</a> brought forth by a male aide. Shortly after stepping down, Massa <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/09/eric-massa-and-glenn-beck_n_492441.html" target="_hplink">appeared</a> on Glenn Beck's television show and described part of an incident that had triggered the charges. "Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn't breathe," he said. "I should have never allowed myself to be as familiar with my staff as I was... I own this misbehavior."
David Wu's Alleged Teen Encounter
On July 26, Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/26/david-wu-resigns-sex-scandal_n_909734.html" target="_hplink">announced</a> that he would step down pending the conclusion of ongoing negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. Wu, who had fielded <a href="http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/house/should-david-wu-resign.html" target="_hplink">prior criticism</a> for erratic behavior in the run up to his successful 2010 reelection -- he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/23/oregon-newspapers-gop-david-wu-resign_n_827462.html" target="_hplink">emailed staffers</a> a picture showing him wearing a tiger costume -- is currently facing allegations that he engaged in an unwanted sexual encounter with an 18-year-old. Wu has claimed the action was consensual.
Chris Lee's Craigslist Follies
Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) took part in perhaps the shortest Washington scandal of all time earlier this year, when a <a href="http://gawker.com/#!5755071/married-gop-congressman-sent-sexy-pictures-to-craigslist-babe" target="_hplink">report</a> that he had sent shirtless pictures to a woman he contacted on Craigslist prompted his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/09/chris-lee-resigns-after-c_n_821080.html" target="_hplink">resignation</a> mere hours later.
John Ensign Has Affair With Aide's Wife
In June 2009, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) admitted to having an affair with the wife of a close friend and top aide. In April of this year, he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/21/john-ensign-resigns-reports_n_852285.html" target="_hplink">announced</a> that he was resigning amid a high-profile ethics probe.
Jack Ryan Taking Jeri Ryan To Sex Clubs
According to custody records, 2004 Illinois Republican Senate hopeful Jack Ryan brought his wife -- actress Jeri Ryan -- to sex clubs in various cities with the intent of having sex in public. Ryan was forced to drop out of the race amid the scandal that flared afterward.
John Edwards And Rielle Hunter
In August 2008, Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) finally confessed that he'd had an affair with a former campaign worker after being exposed by the <i>National Enquirer</i>. He met Rielle Hunter, his future campaign videographer, in a bar. Edwards <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/21/john-edwards-admits-pater_n_431006.html" target="_hplink">admitted</a> fathering the child in early 2010.
Larry Craig Toe-Tapping In Airport Bathroom
Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June 2007 for lewd conduct following an unusual interaction with another man in a bathroom stall at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Craig did not resign immediately, but he did not run again.
Mark Foley Sends Sex Messages To Underage Pages
In September 2006, then chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) was forced to resign amid a scandal involving sexual IM and email conversations with male pages. Foley has since admitted that he is gay.
David Vitter Caught With Prostitutes
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was exposed as a former client of the "DC Madam" prostitution ring in 2007. She even called him during votes. The conservative senator was reportedly also a regular at a New Orleans brothel. Vitter ran for reelection and won in 2010.
Tim Mahoney Paid Off Mistress Staffer
In October 2008, it was reported that Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.) had paid a former staffer-turned-mistress $121,000 to keep her from filing a lawsuit. Mahoney later admitted to having more extramarital affairs.
Vito Fosella Bailed Out From DUI By Mistress
In May 2008, Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) was arrested for drunk driving, taken to jail, and bailed out by his mistress. After conflicting stories and poorly constructed lies, he finally admitted that he had been engaged in an affair with the woman and was the father of her 3-year old child.
Don Sherwood Accused Of Choking Mistress
In 2005, opponents of Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa.) released a D.C. police report from 2004 alleging that Sherwood had choked his mistress. The release of the report forced Sherwood to admit to a five-year affair with the woman.
Gary Condit And Murdered Intern Chandra Levy
After congressional intern Chandra Levy went missing in May 2001, Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.) became the center of a scandal that led to his admitting an affair with Levy. In 2009, Levy's murderer was determined to be a man already in prison for other murders.