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The Defense Department’s newly organized child abuse working group will conduct a rapid review of child and domestic abuse and will issue its first report in February.
The group project, which will last a year, was ordered in light of revelations of widespread child abuse in the services.
Two “rapid improvement events” are planned. An initial study to begin this month will focus on child abuse and neglect. A second will look at domestic and intimate partner abuse starting in January.
The organization is officially designated as the Department of Defense Prevention and Coordinated Community Response to Child Abuse and Neglect and Domestic Violence Working Group. It reports to Jessica Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
“This multidisciplinary, multiservice, multicomponent group of subject-matter experts will address the complex issues of child abuse and neglect and domestic violence,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Joy Crabaugh.
The group is sponsored by the Office of Military Community and Family Policy. Its members include representatives of all four services as well as commanders and experts from the Family Advocacy Program; the medical, legal, law enforcement and chaplain communities; family programs; child and youth programs; and the Department of Defense Education Activity, Crabaugh said.
In 2011 and 2012, there were 12,881 cases of child abuse and neglect in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Of those, 67children died, and more than 753 of the cases were sexual assaults.
A recent Army Times special report revealed that cases of child abuse and neglect soared by 40 percent from 2010 through 2012. From 2003 to 2012, Army officials investigated 30,000 cases, including 118 in which children were killed.
Air Force child abuse and neglect cases jumped 25 percent from 2008 through 2012, from 1,035 cases to 1,288 cases. Sixteen Air Force children died.
The Marine Corps reported 1,591 confirmed cases of child abuse in 2011 and 2012; six children were killed.
The Navy reported 3,336 cases from 2009 to 2012; the number of cases declined in 2012 but climbed through the first half of 2013. Forty-two Navy children were killed as a result of abuse and neglect from 2008 to 2012.
The Army Times special report prompted Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to demand that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel provide more information about child abuse across the services and develop a plan to deal with a problem that has festered for more than a decade.
Responding to allegations of child abuse at a Fort Meade youth center, Army Secretary John McHugh ordered an Army-wide review of procedures at government-run and private-sector facilities attended by military children.■