WASHINGTON -- Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) called on the military to do more to crack down on sexual assault in its ranks on Tuesday, while also worrying that they may be hard to stop because of the natural "hormone level" of the young men serving.
"The young folks who are coming into each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22 or 23. Gee whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur. So we've got to be very careful how we address it on our side," Chambliss told top military officials at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. "But guys, we are not doing our job. You're not doing yours, and we are not doing ours with the rates we are seeing on sexual assaults."
Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), co-chair of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, slammed Chambliss' comments in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s simple; criminals are responsible for sexual assaults, not hormones," said Turner. "Perpetuating this line of thinking does nothing to help change the culture of our military. We must be focused on combating this issue directly. The numbers speak for themselves."
Although Chambliss decried sexual assault in the military and said he wants to do more to stop it, his comments echo the "boys will be boys" mentality that has been used throughout the years to dismiss sexual harassment and assault and avoid taking action to prevent them.
The problem in the military extends beyond young hormonal recruits being reckless, to leaders who have created a culture where sexual assault and harassment are tolerated.
After all, the officer in charge of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention program who was arrested for sexual assault is 41 years old. The manager of the sexual harassment and assault response program in Fort Campbell, Ky. who was arrested in a domestic dispute is 42.
At Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, more than 30 men and women in power -- training instructors and drill sergeants -- were disciplined in a sexual assault scandal. A three-star Air Force general overturned the sexual assault conviction of one of his young pilots. And recently, the Army announced that a sergeant first class on the staff of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has been accused of secretly videotaping female cadets in the shower and elsewhere.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called military sexual assaults a "scourge" and promised to make addressing them a top priority. A recent Pentagon report estimated that as many as 26,000 service members were assaulted in 2012.
This article was updated with comments from Mike Turner.