WASHINGTON — The American Psychological Association has expressed deep concern regarding media reports alleging that Allied partners sexually abused children on U.S. military installations overseas and that U.S. military leaders sanctioned some U.S. service members who reported or intervened to stop the abuse.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, APA officials said they were dismayed by these media reports and “troubled by the impact on U.S. service members who may become aware of such abuse if they are not authorized to report or intervene to protect child victims.”
The letter (PDF, 142KB), signed by APA President Barry S. Anton, PhD, and CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD, noted that APA’s mission includes the application of psychological knowledge from science and practice to address fundamental problems of human welfare.
“For decades, psychologists have played critical roles in documenting the harmful effects of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, as well as neglect, on children; preventing such maltreatment; and intervening clinically and systemically to address this serious and tragic problem locally, nationally, and globally,” they wrote. “We are steadfast in our opposition to abuse and consider the welfare, protection, and treatment of children a priority of the highest order.”
APA supports the principles embodied in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that all children must be protected from violence, sexual abuse, exploitation and maltreatment. In 1999, APA adopted a Resolution Opposing Child Sexual Abuse, which reaffirms the association’s longstanding position that “sexual relations between children and adults are abusive, exploitive, reprehensible and properly punishable by law.” Moreover, licensed psychologists are mandated by law to report even suspected child abuse, and this includes military psychologists in the U.S. and those who provide services on U.S. military installations around the world, according to the letter.
“We request that the Defense Department investigate the allegations of sexual abuse by Allied partners at U.S. military installations overseas,” they wrote. “We also ask that you offer clear guidance and support to military personnel to help ensure the safety of children in areas of conflict.”
The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA’s membership includes more than 122,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.