If it was possible to make a bad situation worse, that’s what Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh managed to do at a Senate hearing Tuesday morning when he blamed an increase in sexual assault in the military on the “hookup” culture prevalent among young people. Welsh said 20 percent of female recruits report being assaulted before they joined the military. “They come in from a society where this occurs,” he said.

Not only did Welsh’s remark seem to place blame on the victim, it also revealed a tendency to view sexual assault in the most benign way, as a date gone bad or a breakdown in communications rather than a violent act. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the first woman to chair the personnel subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, told The Daily Beast it was “outrageous testimony” that showed a fundamental misunderstanding about the violent nature of sexual assault. The senator is introducing a bill next week to take felony crimes out of the chain of command so that rape victims will feel more able to report violent assault without fearing repercussions from officers up the line.

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