Corruption scandals in China have long been packaged with sexual indiscretion. For almost every fallen official there are tales of paramours, sometimes too numerous to seem plausible. Liu Zhijun, the former Railway Minister who is awaiting trial on corruption allegations, was reported to have had 18 mistresses. Shanghai Communist Party secretary Chen Liangyu, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2008 for accepting massive bribes, was accused by the party leadership of being a morally decadent philanderer who traded “power for sexual favors.” When Bo Xilai, the purged former leader of the southwestern city of Chongqing, was ejected from the Communist Party in September, the allegation that he had “improper relationships” with several women was the least shocking development after months of revelations about corruption, murder and abuse of power.
So when a municipal official in Chongqing was caught up in a sex-and-corruption scandal last week, the only surprise was the order of the revelations — first the sex, then the corruption — and the level of detail. Lei Zhengfu, the Communist Party secretary of Chongqing’s Beibei district, was removed from his office on Friday pending an official investigation, but not before he became widely known in China as the balding, bug-eyed, body-built-by-banquets star of a sex tape that circulated widely online last week. The 36-second video is unforgettable in the worst sense of the word. Even casual users of social media in China were subjected to repeated appearances of the naked Lei with a then 18-year-old mistress.
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He probably wishes he was back in Afghanistan. Last month, Major General Gary Patton became the new director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, as details of the latest scandal involving sexual assault in the ranks broke. The Air Force has identified 38 women as victims of rape and sexual misconduct at their training facility at Lackland Air Force Base. Two instructors have been convicted, one sentenced to twenty years, and the unit’s commander has been relieved. The investigation continues as the courts consider the latest lawsuit filed by a group of sexual assault victims who allege that the military mishandled their complaints.
The scope of the problem is startling. A 2008 survey by the Government Accountability Office put the rate of sexual assault at 7 percent of women and 2 percent of men. As women make up about 15 percent of the military, most victims are male. Because of underreporting and the stigma attached to the crime, estimates vary widely. Some VA hospitals report as many as 30 percent of their female patients are victims of sexual assault.
Many victims do not come forward for fear of reprisal. Attackers often outrank their victims, making reporting difficult. Some commanders bully victims into keeping quiet about their attacks. In documentaries like Invisible War and In There Boots: Outside the Wire, victims have described how they were threatened with spurious court martial charges and had their careers derailed by their chains of command. Lawsuits filed by victims described how they lost their security clearances for seeking mental health treatment, damaging the only advantage many of them have in the toughest veteran job market in decades.
The problem has even tainted the military’s mental health system. A recent CNN investigation revealed that while women are make up 16 percent of the Army, they account for 24 percent of the mental health discharges, with similar disparities for the other services. The report went on to profile sexual assault victims from all four services who claimed to have been discharged after seeking assistance after their attacks.