"If the U.S. military wants to stop sexual assault in the U.S. military, it will stop," Quast added. "We know they can change culture and policy, and they have. This has to be mission critical to them."
Quast recently had her own mother-daughter talk about enlistment. She describes herself as "a military child;" Quast's father was an Air Force pilot declared missing in action after being shot down in 1966 over North Vietnam.
But when her daughter expressed interest in joining a college ROTC program after graduating from high school this month, Quast urged against it. Her daughter decided against joining.
Wanting to force change from the inside
Sarah Strachan of Florida, however, was enrolled in her high school's JROTC program, and next month she'll enter the Army -- even after enduring being groped by boys in the JROTC's storage room, she said.
Her high school didn't take her -- or her mother's -- complaints about the groping seriously, both women said.
Strachan, 17, now wants to help reform the military from the inside: She wants to bring rapists and harassers before a court martial and put them in prison.
"I want to do intelligence in the military or military police where I can investigate these types of things and bring justice to the people who do it, because they never do" bring them to justice, Strachan said. After her military service, she might become an FBI agent investigating sex crimes, she said.
Her mother, Dianne, 46, is afraid for her daughter in the Army, but knows Sarah has a strong will. Once, her daughter even knocked one overly aggressive boy to the ground, even though she's 5 foot 4 and 102 pounds, the mother said.
Dianne Strachan said she can only support her daughter's decision. She believes her daughter is trying to live up to her father, divorced from the family, who was in the Army National Guard, she said. The family also has a son, 23, in the Army.
"I really didn't want her to join because I see how they treat women, but I would never hold her back from doing something she wants to do," said Dianne Strachan, a medical transcriptionist.
The rape crisis hasn't deterred Kayla Wright, 20, from wanting to enlist, but it has influenced which branch of service she plans to join.
Wright won't join the Navy because her husband, also 20, is now being medically retired from that service and has warned her that sexual assault is "more likely to happen on a ship because there's more men to women" and "it's not like you can get off a ship and get away from it," she said.
"I told him I wanted to join the Navy, but he was adamant" against it, she said, referring to her husband.
The couple, married last year, plan to move from San Diego, Calif., to Phoenix, Ariz., where her family lives and she'll enlist, she said. Her brother is in the Army, she added.
"The Air Force, they treat you the best," Wright said.
Elizabeth Maglicco, 18, of Port Vue, Penn., isn't afraid of the Navy: She'll report to its basic training just north of Chicago next month.
McCain's comments don't faze her. "He didn't want young women to join until this is all settled," Maglicco said. "I don't think obstacles should get in your way.
"Honestly, any job you go to could have sexual harassment. It's not just the military," she added.
The Navy chief petty officer who recruited her "told us not to put up with it and have zero tolerance for it," Maglicco said. "So him talking to us made me feel a lot more comfortable, because there are guys out there doing the right thing."
When Maglicco was 15 and began considering enlistment, her mother was worried. Her daughter is too naïve, too trusting, seeing only good in people, said Elizabeth Richel, 40, a certified nurse's assistant.
Her daughter, who graduated from high school this month, actually signed up 11 months ago. In fact, because her daughter helped the Navy recruit two boys, she will enter the Navy with a promotion.
"She knows I'm not very happy about it. It's more out of concern that things can happen," Richel said. "I don't feel good about any of the military branches. They're hiding a lot of it, they're covering it up."
Pride to pregnancy to persecution
The "rape culture" in the military, as Kurtz puts it, is something she's facing head-on.