COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Fort Carson and Colorado Springs police revealed Wednesday that they're investigating several soldiers accused of sexual misconduct with underage girls.
Authorities didn't specify how many soldiers or victims are involved, nor did they indicate where the alleged misconduct happened. Authorities provided no further details, citing the ongoing investigation.
Fort Carson released the following statement:
"Fort Carson is currently investigating allegations against several soldiers for sexual misconduct with female minors. The command is aware of the cases and is closely monitoring the investigations of these soldiers. At this time, no further details can be released as law enforcement investigations are still pending. We assure the community that the Army is taking this situation seriously and updates will be provided as information is made available."
A CNN report published late Wednesday, citing an unidentified Army official, stated that investigators are looking into allegations that up to seven junior -- or low-level -- enlisted soldiers joined a an "online social dating" website and responded to profiles of women they believed to be at least 18 years old, according to their online profiles.
According to the Army official, the CNN report stated, it's believed some or all of the soldiers had sex with the women, who turned out to be underage for legal consent. The official said the soldiers "did not advertise for sex" and told investigators they did not know the women were underage.
The CNN report lists two sets of incidents under investigation: one from April to July of 2013 and another from March to June of 2013. Although Fort Carson's statement said Fort Carson is investigating the case, the CNN report names the Army Criminal Investigation Command as conducting the probe.
Erica Laue, a therapist for TESSA, a local victims' support agency, is a former therapist at Fort Carson. She said during her time there, soldiers were accused of sexual misconduct several times a month.
However, Laue said she believed Fort Carson does a good job of educating soldiers about consent laws. She said many young military men accused in such cases are only a few years older than their alleged victims, and may not know or care about consent laws.
"They're much less likely to have that confidence in their knowledge of being 18, 19, 20 and can't have sex with someone who's 15, 16 anymore, like they could a year ago when they were still in high school," said Laue. "So that's part of the barrier, simply just awareness around what is and what is not appropriate."
Laue said power and control are other contributing factors.
"So there's almost this assumption for some of these people that this is what they get to do, because they've got all this swagger and power and believe they can do what they want," said Laue. "They think: 'I'm interested in you, you hot young thing' -- or whatever it is that they're saying to themselves to convince themselves that the choices they're making are OK."
Finally, Laue said often in the military, young men target teen girls as ideal sexual partners, and should be held more accountable for such behavior.
"We're looking at a situation where somebody is able to manipulate social factors to make it look like it was an accidental or unintended sexual assault," she said. "So somebody is deliberately looking for somebody who's 14 or 15 years old and too young to consent to them, but who may be slightly sexually precocious."
Laue emphasized that most military males obey consent laws and realize it's inappropriate to target teen girls to date, or for a sexual relationship.