Periodically, the Gallup poll folks ask Americans how much “confidence” they have in a variety of institutions in American society.

They are given four choices to describe their confidence level: a great deal, quite a lot, some or very little.

All but one institution has been taking a beating.

This year, 41 percent of those asked had “a great deal or “quite a lot” of confidence in religious institutions.

Big business was at 21 percent.

Congress was just 12 percent, but that was up from 9 percent last year.

Public schools were at 36 percent.

Newspapers 27 percent.

Police 57 percent.

But year after year, confidence in the military remains strong. This year it was at 72 percent.

The military can’t do anything wrong, unless you take a close look at how it handles sexual assaults, then you should stop waving the American flag.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was once our congresswoman, has made this one of her signature issues. She should be applauded, because few in Congress ever want to stand up to the most popular kid in class, especially one wearing a chestful of medals.

Gillibrand, who also serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been fighting the good fight for several years. She has drawn attention to the issue, gotten some reforms passed, but not been able to make a significant difference.

Reports of sexual assault went up in the most recent statistics.

This past week, Sen. Gillibrand released her third annual report on the subject, concluding that military sexual assaults remain “as pervasive as ever.”

While the rest of American society has moved forward and adopted respectful workplace standards, many military leaders uniforms don’t seem to believe sexual harassment is a significant problem.

Sen. Gillibrand’s office reviewed a year’s worth of sexual assault case files at four of the largest military bases in the country. It took the military a year to even get the data to them. Even then, the records were often heavily redacted and sometimes incomplete.

That’s called dragging your feet and covering your butt.

The report reviewed 238 sexual assault cases at the four bases in 2015.

Of those 238 cases, only 23 percent went to trial and just 13 percent (31 cases) resulted in a conviction of sexual assault. In 15 of those 31 cases, the accused confessed.

And despite the Pentagon’s own data that revealed 6 of 10 victims experience some form of retaliation, there were no examples of disciplinary action against anyone accused of retaliating against an accuser.

Gillibrand called that shocking.

The report also found that the higher the rank of the person accused, the more they were likely to be believed than their accuser.

I’d called it what it is – criminal.

If we truly believe and respect those that wear the uniform, why aren’t we screaming about this ongoing abuse?

Sen. Gillibrand has called for the “professionalism and modernization of the military justice system to allow independent military prosecutors to aggressively adjudicate and hold sexual predators who harm our military readiness accountable.”

Currently, it is military commanders who decide whether sexual assaults and other serious crimes should be prosecuted.

Gillibrand previously had support from Republican senators such as Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rand Paul of Kentucky, but not Sen. John McCain of Arizona and too many of his colleagues who refuse to stand up to the generals and do the right thing.

Sen. Gillibrand’s report includes shockingly graphic accounts of attacks that were often never prosecuted.

Until the military addresses this issue, my confidence is lacking.

Ken Tingley is the editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at tingley@poststar.com. You can read his blog “The Front Page” daily at www.poststar.com or his updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kentingley.

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Editor

Ken Tingley is Editor of The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y. and writes a regular blog called "The Front Page."

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