He also observed that a female officer who had come forward with a complaint had used profanity in describing her assault. "Any women who would use the F-word on a regular basis would welcome this type of activity," he reportedly said.
Today, failure to prosecute some prominent sexual-assault cases is a key reason many victims never come forward to report the crime.
The Pentagon's annual report on sexual assault estimated that only 14 percent of the 19,000 service members estimated to have experienced assault during the course of one year actually came forward.
According to one survey, one quarter said they did not report the crime because they "did not trust the reporting process."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has acknowledged the systemic problems. "The most important thing we can do is prosecute the offenders," he said. "If we can do that, then we can begin to deal with this issue."
Respondents to the 2011 Air Force survey agreed. "Air Force personnel are trained ad nauseam on sexual assault, prevention, and response," read one response. "The perpetrators of sexual assault, however, will continue their behavior unless they fear significant consequences."
Noted another, "Harsh consequences for offenders is the best way to act as a preventative measure."
Part of that includes increasing the penalties for sexual assault, which are beginning to inch up. The number of courts-martial for sexual assault cases has also increased, from 410 in 2009 to 489 in 2011.
A witch hunt?
Yet some within the military fear the pressure to increase prosecutions of sexual assault could result in a witch hunt mentality.
"What is the 'right' prosecution rate? 20 percent? 40 percent?" says James Russell III, associate director of the Air Force's Military Justice Division.