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Female Army Trainess Testify About Alleged Sexual Assaults

By Paul Richter
Los Angeles Times

A succession of women made public for the first time Monday their accusations against the noncommissioned officer portrayed as the worse offender in the Army's widening sex scandal but their testimony may have inflicted its heaviest damage on the reputation of the service itself.

As they described rapes and assaults allegedly committed by Staff Sgt. Delmar G. Simpson, former trainees at the Aberdeen Proving Ground portrayed a seemingingly unsupervised installation where rules created to keep order and protect subordinate women appeared to be uniformly ignored.

The women described a base where two drill sergeants vied to amass the longest list of sexual conquests, where female recruits carried on intimate relationships with several drill sergeants and where a well-intentioned system for reminding women of sexual harassment rules was blandly ignored.

One witness, Pvt. Idina Hodges, said that, after she had been at the Maryland ordnance school only two weeks, she began hearing "rumors about this person having sex with drill sergeants, about this person sneaking out, about this person was fine' - and things like that." Hodges allegedly was kissed by Simpson against her will.

In the Army, rules specify that drill sergeants are not allowed to date, or even touch, the women they supervise.

One senior Army officer, told of the day's testimony, predicted that it would add a new urgency to demands for responses to the problem and increase complaints from conservatives who oppose mixed-gender training altogether.

"We've got to admit that something is really wrong in the culture of the Army," said this officer, who asked to remain unidentified.

The court-martial is under way as the secretary of the Army and other Pentagon officials are seeking a sweeping remedy for sexual abuses that have been alleged at several U.S. bases.

In proceedings in a tiny and austere military courtroom, the six military jurors heard two women testify that Simpson had raped them, another describe how Simpson had propositioned her and a fourth tell how Simpson had kissed her against her will. Two of the four said that they thought Simpson was brutal while two others declared him a fair, though strict, boss. But they all agreed that he was keenly interested in the women under his command.