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Chuck Hagel says Pentagon must get troops to act morally to prevent sexual assaults

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,The Pentagon,National Security,Military Sexual Assault,Chuck Hagel,Gender Issues

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that servicemembers must be convinced to act morally, rather than just within the bounds of the law, to combat sexual assault in the military.

"So, our country, fortunately, is a nation of laws," Hagel said Monday. "We start with the Constitution. It's imperfect. We have many laws. If we just follow the logic of laws, we shouldn't have any crimes, because we have laws. Well, we know that that doesn't work. We are imperfect creatures. And so I think all the things that I've said before, you add all that up and you keep working it and working it and stay focused on it. It is human behavior. It is human conduct. And there's where -- where it resides."

A Pentagon report in November noted that 3,553 sexual assault complaints were filed between October 2012 and June 2013, an increase from the previous year which military officials attributed to victims being more confident about reporting such incidents.

The fiscal 2012 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response report cited 3,374 reports over the entire year, from October 2011 through September 2012.

Hagel made the comments while discussing whether reforms to the criminal justice aspect of sexual assault prevention are necessary.

"[Y]ou have to build systems and structures to assure rights and punishment, all the rest," he said. "But if we can get individuals where we need to get them to start with as their own personal behavior and personal conduct — their responsibility to conduct themselves not just legally but morally right."

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