Protect Our Defenders (POD) works to promote education and awareness, provide training, and grow our community of survivors, family, and civilian advocates who support reform.
We provide speakers—professional experts and survivor advocates—and training materials for sexual assault prevention programs at military bases, training programs at VA centers, and contribute to educational events hosted by universities and national organizations. Our mini-documentary videos featuring military-specific survivor stories are frequently requested and repurposed for military, VA, and community training and support events. Topics include the history of military justice and efforts to modernize the system, the personal experiences of survivors, and best practices in supporting survivors following an assault on base and care at the VA.
Expand Support for Education, Training, and Outreach Program to Improve Military Sexual Assault Awareness Efforts
Our goal is to increase our capacity to engage with military prevention and response officers, as well as VA health care professionals, who request expertise and/or high quality resources including videos and educational materials, fact sheets and presentations. For speaking requests, POD provides coordination, mentoring, and travel for survivor advocates.
Recent requests from the program include:
- POD President Col (ret.) Don Christensen was invited to a roundtable discussion with attorneys assigned to the Navy Criminal Law Division to speak about why POD supports fundamental reform, the role of the commander, and shortcomings of the current system.
- Col Christensen was the sole presenter of public comments to the Joint Service Committee on a proposed executive order to strengthen privacy protections of victims’ mental health records during the appellate process. During the meeting, Col Christensen advocated for protections of prosecutors against retaliation by the command system for their advocacy on behalf of victims.
- Col Christensen presented public comments before the newly formed Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces. At the public meeting, he spoke about the role of the commander in military sexual assault prosecutions, the rates of sexual assault and retaliation, and prosecution and conviction rates. He also discussed the need for litigation and investigation career tracks to build more expertise among military professionals.
- Col Christensen speaking to SVCs in the U.S. Coast Guard about the history of the SVC program, fighting for their clients’ rights, and how to adverse rulings as well as POD’s services.
- Col Christensen spoke on a panel before attorney members of the Asian American Bar Association of New York along with a former Marine Corps JAG and a law professor and retired JAG in New York City about the system of military justice and the need for fundamental reform.
- Col Christensen spoke on a panel at the American Bar Association (ABA) responding to a legislative proposal by the Department of Defense (DoD) to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The panel was co-sponsored by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Armed Forces Law, the Standing Committee on Law and National Security, and the Judge Advocates
- After representing several victims of military sexual assault, including an Army soldier, Mary Rose Hughes of Perkins Coie from the POD Pro Bono Network (PBN) met with the Program Manager for the Army Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) Program, at the Army’s request. Participants of the meeting discussed ways Army and civilian counsel can improve communication and learn from each other. Col Christensen coordinated with Mary Rose regarding issues to be highlighted during the meeting and ways in which the Army, working with civilians, can ensure that all victims receive appropriate, comprehensive legal representation during the military justice process. As a result of this meeting, the Army SVC Program Manager is now including information on civilian SVCs in their trainings and is pushing for trial counsel trainings to incorporate information about the role of both military and civilian SVCs.
- In April 2016, POD Advisory Board member Brian Lewis coordinated a daylong Military Sexual Trauma Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar at Mitchell Hamline Law School in Minneapolis. Col Christensen led a session on prosecuting military sexual assault and the policy implications of the ongoing crisis.
- In September 2016, Col Christensen participated in a panel discussion on military sexual assault at Georgetown University Law Center hosted by the Military Law Society and Advocates Against Sexual Violence. The panel was moderated by the Honorable Jamie Baker, former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), and included an SVC currently serving in the Coast Guard and Navy JAGC who serves as the head of the Navy Defense Appellate office.
- The Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) office at Fort Drum Army Base in New York held a series of events for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month in April 2016. As part of the program, POD Advisory Board member Heath Philips was invited to speak to over 100 troop members about his personal experience as a survivor in order to raise awareness of military sexual assault among soldiers.
- In August 2016, POD Advisory Board member Terri Odom spoke at a training for healthcare providers, doctors, nurses and staff at the Durham, North Carolina VA Emergency Department about best practices in caring for Military Sexual Trauma (MST) survivors. This training was called “Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD: A Veteran’s Story” and was based on Terri’s personal and professional experiences at the St. Louis VA.
To inquire further about our Education, Training, and Outreach program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.