Protect Our Defenders News Blog

Protect Our Defenders welcomes blog posts on our news page on timely topics related to military sexual assault. If you have an idea for a post, please email info@protectourdefenders.com.

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MEDIA ADVISORY: Protect Our Defenders Policy Director Miranda Petersen to Speak at Panel on Sexual Assault in the Military

Posted by POD Staff, October 9th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 9, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, Brian@protectourdefenders.com

*** MEDIA ADVISORY ***

PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS POLICY DIRECTOR MIRANDA PETERSEN TO SPEAK AT PANEL ON SEXUAL ASSAULT IN THE MILITARY

Washington DC – On Friday, October 10th, Protect Our Defenders Programs and Policy Director, Miranda Petersen will be speaking at a public meeting of the Judicial Proceedings Panel on Sexual Assault in the Military.

The meeting will include panel deliberations on the current and proposed changes to the military statute dealing with rape and sexual assault. The panel will also focus on victim privacy issues in sexual assault cases. Specifically, the military will focus on its mandates to the review the admission of evidence of a victim’s past sexual conduct and a victim’s mental health records at Article 32 hearings, and at courts-martial in civilian jurisdictions.

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STATEMENT: Protect Our Defenders Congratulates “The Invisible War” For Two Emmy Wins and Brave Servicemembers

Posted by POD Staff, October 1st, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 1, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, brian@protectourdefenders.com

*** STATEMENT *** 

PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS CONGRATULATES “THE INVISIBLE WAR” FOR TWO EMMY WINS AND BRAVE SERVICEMEMBERS 

Washington DC – Last night, the film, The Invisible War, won two Emmys — one for Investigative Journalism and another for Best Documentary — at the 35th Annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards in New York City.

Today, Protect Our Defenders President, Nancy Parrish, released the following statement:

“We congratulate everybody involved with The Invisible War for bringing the epidemic of sexual assault in the military out of the shadows and into to the forefront of America’s consciousness. The courage that our men and women in uniform showed by sharing their stories in this film is nothing short of remarkable. But, there is much more work to be done as the latest scandal at Ft. Leonard Wood has made painfully obvious. Multiple allegations of intimidation and threats of retaliation for soldiers reporting sexual assault are unconscionable.

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STATEMENT: Protect Our Defenders Calls for Investigation After Reports of Intimidation and Threatened Retaliation Against Victims of Sexual Assault at Fort Leonard Wood

Posted by POD Staff, September 25th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 25, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, brian@protectourdefenders.com

*** STATEMENT *** 

PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION AFTER REPORTS OF INTIMIDATION AND THREATENED RETALIATION AGAINST VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AT FORT LEONARD WOOD 

Washington DC – Today, Protect Our Defenders called on Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to launch an independent investigation after multiple allegations of intimidation and threats of retaliation for reporting sexual assault surfaced during the court martial of a drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood, who was convicted of sexually assaulting and abusing eight female soldiers he was training.

Army Staff Sgt. Angel M. Sanchez was found guilty of four counts of sexual assault and six counts of abusive sexual contact at a court-martial Wednesday afternoon. He was also found guilty of several lesser charges, and had already pleaded guilty to wrongfully engaging in conduct of a sexual nature with three trainees.

During the drill sergeant’s sentencing testimony, one of the victims said that a Lt. Colonel had told her and other trainees not to report if they were sexually assaulted. “I have issues of trusting those who are in charge of me,” she said, after a Lieutenant Colonel told her “not to make any more allegations.”

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Ft. Leonard Wood court-martial highlights sex crisis in military

Posted by POD Staff, September 22nd, 2014

Protect Our Defenders Policy Director Miranda Petersen is featured in this article from the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

In the law that passed, there are instead calls for a civilian secondary review if a commander decides that a sexual assault case doesn’t merit court-martial and a prosecutor wants to go to trial. Commanders can no longer overturn convictions, but they can reduce sentences.

Critics says it’s not enough.

“Your boss has no business deciding whether your report of rape deserves its day in court,” Petersen said. “That decision should be left up to legally trained, experienced prosecutors.”

Read more here.

 


Huffington Post: Standing With Survivors — POD’s Pro Bono Legal Network Marks 1st Anniversary

Posted by POD Staff, September 17th, 2014

Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish writes a blog for the Huffington Post, celebrating the one year anniversary of POD’s Pro Bono Legal Network:

Jenny was on her first duty assignment with the Marine Corps when a superior raped her on ship. When Jenny reached out to Protect Our Defenders (POD), she was facing an investigation that was going nowhere, with the military claiming they could not locate her active-duty assailant. POD found Jenny an attorney to fight to protect her privacy rights and demand answers from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Our staff is now helping her with an Inspector General complaint regarding the continued mishandling of her case.

Through the Pro Bono Legal Network (PBN) at Protect Our Defenders, we provide service members like Jenny and other survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) with free legal and casework support. As we continue to grow this program, we wanted to take a moment to share a snapshot of the PBN, so that survivors and service providers know of the assistance that we provide and where they can go to access help.

If you are a service member or a veteran in need of legal representation or case assistance related to your attack, please visit our website and fill out an intake form.

Read more here.


PRESS RELEASE: Protect Our Defenders Celebrates First Year of Pro Bono Legal Network Assisting Military Sexual Assault Survivors

Posted by POD Staff, September 17th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 17, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, brian@protectourdefenders.com

*** PRESS RELEASE ***

PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS CELEBRATES FIRST YEAR OF PRO BONO LEGAL NETWORK ASSISTING MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVORS 

Program Has Provided Casework Assistance and Connected Victims to a Network of Lawyers Willing to Handle Cases, Provide Legal Counsel at No Cost 

Washington DC – Launched over one year ago, Protect Our Defenders’ (POD) Pro Bono Legal Network (PBN) provides service members and veterans who are survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) with free legal and casework support. The volunteer network of attorneys and service organizations, along with POD staff, help and support victims attempting to navigate the complex and biased military justice system that all too often favors the accused and retaliates against victims.

Through the Pro Bono Network, POD continues to hear almost daily from these service members who in addition to their assault face a degrading and hostile work environment, and who have been denied the justice and assistance they need. Many have sought help from the resources provided by the military, and yet continue to face a lack of justice, suffer retaliation, and be denied the benefits they deserve.

“If you are an active duty service member who has been sexually assaulted and in need of support, Protect Our Defenders’ Pro Bono Legal Network is here for you,” said Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish. “According to the Pentagon’s own numbers, just a small fraction of survivors of rape and assault within the military ever report their attack. Those who choose not to come forward have very little faith in the military justice system, and rightfully fear retaliation. According to the Pentagon of the few who do come forward 60% state they were retaliated against.”

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Standing With Survivors – POD’s Pro Bono Legal Network Marks 1st Anniversary

Posted by POD Staff, September 16th, 2014

By Nancy Parrish, President, Protect Our Defenders

Jenny was on her first duty assignment with the Marine Corps when a superior raped her on ship. When Jenny reached out to Protect Our Defenders (POD), she was facing an investigation that was going nowhere, with the military claiming they could not locate her active-duty assailant. POD found Jenny an attorney to fight to protect her privacy rights and demand answers from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Our staff is now helping her with an Inspector General complaint regarding the continued mishandling of her case.

Through the Pro Bono Legal Network (PBN) at Protect Our Defenders, we provide service members like Jenny and other survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) with free legal and casework support. As we continue to grow this program, we wanted to take a moment to share a snapshot of the PBN, so that survivors and service providers know of the assistance that we provide and where they can go to access help.

If you are a service member or a veteran in need of legal representation or case assistance related to your attack, please visit our website and fill out an intake form.

Protect Our Defenders see stories like Jenny’s almost every day. These service members come to us because they aren’t receiving justice or the assistance they need from the military. They have tried to operate within the resources given to them and yet they are still confronting a lack of justice and too often face retaliation. We created this program because of the horrific stories and the overwhelming need for assistance from people whose obstacles to justice were too great to confront on their own. Fortunately, we have amazing staff members, interns and attorneys who recognize this and are willing to lend their support.

Lauren was a career service member for over 15 years in both the Air Force and Air National Guard. In 2008, Lauren was physically assaulted and raped by her supervisor while stationed abroad. Mindful of retaliation, Lauren reported only the physical assault, and kept the sexual assault to herself for three years until she sought counseling in 2011. When her counselor broke confidentiality rules and informed her command of the attack, retaliation against her began. In November 2011, Lauren was placed on a “medical hold.” Since then, she has not been paid and has been prevented from working, with her case left unresolved.

When Lauren reached out to the PBN in early 2014, criminal investigations into the physical and sexual assault were still pending. She was told that her command was planning to administratively separate her, rather than medically retire her with the benefits she deserved. Although she was in contact with a Congressional office, no progress had been made. PBN staff worked with Lauren to compile a comprehensive case file and conducted outreach to Congressional offices on her behalf. After two weeks of facilitated communication with a second Congressional office that specialized on MST issues, Lauren was finally assigned a Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) attorney to assist her and advocate for her rights. Lauren’s SVC is now helping her through the process. We remain in contact with Lauren to do what we can to assure a positive outcome.

In addition to supporting survivors, POD works to provide resources and information to military Victim’s Legal Counsel (VLC) about how they can more effectively advocate for their clients. Unfortunately, VLCs and Special Victims Counsel (SVC) continue to face pressure from their leadership to limit the scope of their advocacy.  As a result many survivors continue to face retaliation and charges of collateral misconduct without legal support. POD is working to empower VLCs and SVCs through policy change, while continuing our push to fix the broken military justice system as a whole.

POD has supplemented its Pro Bono Legal Program by filing amicus briefs in several cases on issues ranging from a victim’s right to be heard in court, to the opposition of forced depositions prior to trial, and prevention of victims’ confidential therapy records and prior sexual history from being disclosed in court.

Unfortunately, both Jenny’s and Lauren’s stories are all too common. POD continues to hear from survivors whose rights are being undermined, who face retaliation for reporting and who struggle to get the benefits they are entitled to receive. No matter the situation, we work to come up with effective ways to address urgent needs—whether that means finding a pro bono attorney, drafting a letter to a member of Congress, or crafting a Freedom of Information Act request. Even for those survivors who are not sure what they need, PBN staff will do our best to find creative ways help.

As we grow the Pro Bono Legal Program, we encourage you to spread the word about our services for survivors by sharing this blog post, and by visiting our website or filling out our Pro Bono Network Intake Form to request assistance. One of our staff members will be in contact to schedule an intake interview as soon as possible.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of survivors.


Men and rape: GQ’s bold new series | CA’s groundbreaking new law

Posted by POD Staff, September 12th, 2014

GQ just published their investigative series with male survivors of military sexual assault, “Son, Men Don’t Get Raped”. The series features brave stories from Brian Lewis, Heath Phillips, Trent Smith and many others who have worked closely with us. Protect Our Defenders worked with correspondent Nathaniel Penn on this important piece for months, connecting him with survivors, military health professionals and support services. GQ had this to say about our nonprofit: “POD is the nation’s leading advocacy and support group for survivors of military sexual trauma. Their searchable Help page lists a wide array of local and national services, including MST treatment, legal help, and family therapy.” See the full GQ story. *Please note, the content may be triggering for survivors. 

More updates:

  • Outrageous news Last week, the former sexual assault prevention officer – who himself was accused of assaulting a woman last year – was issued a letter of reprimand last week, instead of facing trial. Many victims face graver consequences for reporting such a crime than the slap on the wrist Lt. Col. Krusinski received for committing one. Read more.
  • California will become the first state to take the prosecution of sexual assault cases out of the chain of command! Vets and survivors – including Kate Weber, a member of Protect Our Defenders and the 2013 “California Woman Veteran Leader of the Year” – were critical in helping to pass this bill that the San Francisco Chronicle describes as “a trendsetter.” Though the law does not affect national branches, its passing reflects the direction the country is heading toward national reform. Read more.
  • Air Force Academy continues to cover up sexual assault cases An investigator claims he was transferred out of the Academy and told he’d be kicked out of the Air Force. And OSI informant and cadet Eric Thomas was dis-enrolled. Their work work led to the only successful prosecutions of sexual assault in over 10 years at the Academy. We’ve joined with Sen. Gillibrand and Sen. Thune in calling for an independent investigation to review the handling of these cases. Read more.
  • National reform This spring over 600 advocates wrote messages of thanks to the 55 Senators who supported the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) to take the prosecution of sexual assault cases out of the chain of command. This fall, we’ll deliver the messages to Senators to remind them of your support when the legislation is once again brought up for a vote. Add your name now.

At our sold out benefit in August we hosted moderator and CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl and three distinguished speakers: General Robert Shadley (Ret), former Navy pilot Paula Coughlin, and Attorney Susan Burke. The event benefited our Pro Bono Legal Program, which celebrated its one-year anniversary this summer. Below, a photo of our moderator and speakers discussing the military sexual assault crisis in our military. Learn more about the benefit.


STATEMENT: Protect Our Defenders Responds to GAO Report That Finds Pentagon Has Failed to Successfully Address Issues of Sexual Assault in Military Training Environments

Posted by POD Staff, September 9th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 9, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, brian@protectourdefenders.com

*** STATEMENT *** 

PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS RESPONDS TO GAO REPORT THAT FINDS PENTAGON HAS FAILED TO SUCCESSFULLY ADDRESS ISSUES OF SEXUAL ASSAULT IN MILITARY TRAINING ENVIRONMENTS

Washington DC – Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding that the DoD has failed to properly oversee its programs to prevent sexual assault in military training environments, and must take further steps to address this problem.

The GAO Report found that the Air Force has failed to properly measure sexual harassment and assault in its training environment, has failed to fully implement its own recommendations, and has failed to even provide basic oversight or to measure the effectiveness of its programming.

Out of 46 recommendations from the Air Force’s 2012 Commander’s report to improve prevention, investigation, and response to sexual assault, the GAO found that only 39 had been fully implemented. However, according to the report, “the Air Force has not fully established an oversight framework to evaluate the effectiveness of actions taken in response to [its own] recommendations.”

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GQ: “Son, Men Don’t Get Raped”

Posted by POD Staff, September 9th, 2014

GQ correspondent Nathaniel Penn wrote a long-form investigative report on the male survivors of sexual assault in the military.

The series features brave stories from Brian Lewis, Heath Phillips, Trent Smith and many others who have worked closely with us. Protect Our Defenders worked with Penn on this important piece for months, connecting him with survivors, military health professionals and support services.

The correspondent also wrote a blog post on where survivors can turn to for help. Penn highlighted our work, naming Protect Our Defenders the “nation’s leading advocacy and support group for survivors of military sexual trauma.”

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The moment a man enlists in the United States armed forces, his chances of being sexually assaulted increase by a factor of ten. Women, of course, are much more likely to be victims of military sexual trauma (MST), but far fewer of them enlist. In fact, more military men are assaulted than women—nearly 14,000 in 2012 alone. Prior to the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011, male-on-male-rape victims could actually be discharged for having engaged in homosexual conduct. That’s no longer the case—but the numbers show that men are still afraid to report being sexually assaulted.

Military culture is built upon a tenuous balance of aggression and obedience. The potential for sexual violence exists whenever there is too much of either. New recruits, stripped of their free will, cannot question authority. A certain kind of officer demands sex from underlings in the same way he demands they pick up his laundry. A certain kind of recruit rapes his peer in a sick mimicry of the power structure: I own you totally. “One of the myths is that the perpetrators identify as gay, which is by and large not the case,” says James Asbrand, a psychologist with the Salt Lake City VA’s PTSD clinical team. “It’s not about the sex. It’s about power and control.”

To understand this problem and why it persists twenty-two years after the Tailhook scandal, GQ interviewed military officials, mental-health professionals, and policy-makers, as well as twenty-three men who are survivors not only of MST but also of a bureaucracy that has failed to protect them.

Read the full investigative report here.


STATEMENT: Protect Our Defenders Calls On Alaska Governor to Enact Fundamental Reform After Report Exposes Broken Justice System in Alaska National Guard

Posted by POD Staff, September 9th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 9, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, brian@protectourdefenders.com

*** STATEMENT ***

PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS CALLS ON ALASKA GOVERNOR TO ENACT FUNDAMENTAL REFORM AFTER REPORT EXPOSES BROKEN JUSTICE SYSTEM IN ALASKA NATIONAL GUARD

Washington DC – Today, Protect Our Defenders called on Alaska Governor Sean Parnell to stand with victims of rape and sexual assault in the Alaska National Guard and enact legislation that will take the handling of these cases out of a biased and often conflicted chain of command.

A report released last week, found that complaints by victims in the Guard were not properly documented and that victims were not referred to victim advocates. The report also found that victims’ privacy rights were violated, and that they faced retaliation from both their fellow servicemembers and commanders for speaking up.

Protect Our Defenders President, Nancy Parrish, released the following statement:

“Governor Parnell should support the transfer of all sexual assault cases in the Alaska National Guard to local police and prosecutors similar to that recently passed by the California legislature and signed into law.

“It is time for the Governor to take real action and fix this broken system. The members of the Alaska National Guard deserve a justice system equal to the system afforded to the civilians they protect.”

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STATEMENT: Protect Our Defenders Calls Letter of Reprimand for Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention Officer “A Slap on the Wrist”

Posted by POD Staff, September 5th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 5, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, brian@protectourdefenders.com

*** STATEMENT ***

PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS CALLS LETTER OF REPRIMAND FOR AIR FORCE SEXUAL ASSAULT PREVENTION OFFICER “A SLAP ON THE WRIST”

Washington DC – Today, the United States Air Force decided to punish Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, a former sexual assault prevention officer accused of groping a woman last year by issuing him a letter of reprimand, rather than pursuing a court-martial.

Protect Our Defenders President, Nancy Parrish, released the following statement:

“When Krusinski was assigned to lead the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), he was entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the military environment was safe from the very behavior he engaged in. Far from meeting that obligation, he behaved in a disgusting and morally reprehensible manner, and violated the trust of the Air Force and the American public.

“Krusinski’s ‘punishment’ – a slap on the wrist – is less than many victims get in retaliation for simply reporting such a crime, and it is vastly inadequate in comparison to the gravity of his actions. A letter of reprimand will do nothing to combat the victim blaming, often misogynistic culture within the military, and demonstrates a level of tolerance and acceptance for those who see sexual assault prevention as merely a joke. Our military claims to hold itself up to a higher standard. It is time they did. The American public is fed up with the continued drumbeat of outrageous scandals in the military, and the military’s lack luster response to them.”

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[VIDEO] CA Military Sexual Assault Bill Becomes Law

Posted by POD Staff, August 25th, 2014

NBC Bay Area reports:

California has just made a major change in the way sexual assault allegations are investigated in the state military department. On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that requires sexual assault cases to be investigated by outside civilian law enforcement, not by military commanders.

It provides for no statute of limitations in cases involving sexual assault in California’s military department, which includes 24,000 people. The legislation also requires the department to report sexual assault statistics to the governor and lawmakers each year.

“I thank Governor Brown for signing this important legislation,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, who authored the bill. “Sexual assault is a serious problem throughout our military. While Washington debates how to address this crisis, California leads by example. Victims of sexual assault deserve our support and a respectful and effective justice system.”

Read more here.


Wing leaders lift alcohol ban in dormitories on Ramstein

Posted by POD Staff, August 21st, 2014

Stars and Stripes reports:

Though the ban on alcohol wasn’t driven by sexual assaults in the dorms, wing leaders consulted with sexual assault prevention experts on Ramstein about the policy, given the correlation of alcohol and sexual assaults across the military, Mordente said.

A Pentagon report released in May showed that two-thirds of sexual assaults across the military in fiscal 2013 involved alcohol use by the victim, the assailant or both. “I said ‘Please show me the data and make sure there’s not something here that I’m missing,’ ” he said. They told the commander that sexual assault, from an Air Force perspective, is a much broader issue, he said.

“It’s not about just the dorms. It’s about downtown K-town, it’s about 24-7, it’s about being airmen, it’s about treating people with respect,” Mordente said.

“The ban was not about sexual assault. The ban was about holding airmen to a standard. Lifting the ban is the fact that we, the leadership team, think our airmen can maintain that standard.”

Read more here.


PRESS RELEASE: Protect Our Defenders Support Calls for an Independent Investigation of Sexual Assault Cases and Retaliation at United States Air Force Academy

Posted by POD Staff, August 21st, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 21, 2014 Contact: Max Wertheimer, 415-302-1584, max@protectourdefenders.com

*** PRESS RELEASE ***

PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS SUPPORT CALLS FOR AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES AND RETALIATION AT UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY

Washington DC – Yesterday, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and John Thune (R-SD) sent a letter to the Office of Special Counsel and the Defense Department inspector general’s office, calling to investigate claims of retaliation against an Air Force investigator and a cadet informant whose work lead to the first prosecutions of sexual assault at the United States Air Force Academy in over a decade.

According to news reports, after successfully prosecuting these sexual assault cases, the Air Force investigator, Sgt. Brandon Enos was transferred out of the academy, stripped of his badge and was told he was going to be kicked out of the Air Force. Sgt. Enos fought his dismissal, and is now seeking a medical discharge from the military.

The cadet informant, Eric Thomas was expelled for misconduct that he claims was sanctioned by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) – the office that both he and Sgt. Enos reported to when investigating these cases.

Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish today released the following statement:

“We applaud Senators Gillibrand and Thune for recognizing the need for an independent investigation into these alarming allegations of misconduct at the Academy and retaliation by Academy leaders towards those who have sought to expose it.  We encourage the independent investigation to include a review of all AF academy cases brought before the AF IG during this time period. With the highest rate of sexual assault reports of any service Academy for four straight years, it is clear the Academy has failed on its own to address the elements that make it an oppressive environment for victims and a target-rich environment for sexual predators. These latest allegations, if substantiated, serve as yet another example of the failure of the military to police itself, and of the desperate need for a professional and impartial military justice system.”

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Sex-assault cases in California military shifting jurisdictions

Posted by POD Staff, August 21st, 2014

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

All sexual assault cases in the California military will be transferred from the chain of command and the court-martial system to local police and prosecutors under a law signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown that is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

The move – which does not affect U.S. military branches like the Marine Corps and Coast Guard – comes amid a national debate over sexual abuse in the armed forces. Many victims’ advocates say the military justice system is failing.

Sexual assault cases involving active-duty members of the state military are already typically handled in local civilian courts, as the California Military Department isn’t equipped to pursue the cases. The new law codifies that practice starting in 2015, and is envisioned as a trendsetter.

Read more here.


Inquiry Urged on Air Force Academy’s Handling of Sexual Assault Cases

Posted by POD Staff, August 20th, 2014

The New York Times reports:

Two senators called Wednesday for an independent investigation into the handling of sexual assault cases at the Air Force Academy, saying they were concerned about “very serious allegations of wrongdoing.”

In a letter to the Office of Special Counsel, the two senators, Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, asked the watchdog agency to investigate claims that academy officials retaliated against an Air Force investigator and the cadet informant who helped him investigate drug use and sexual assault among football players. The senators sent the same request to the Defense Department inspector general’s office, asking it to investigate.

The investigator, Sgt. Brandon Enos, said in a letter sent this month to members of Congress that after a spate of successful prosecutions of football players for sexual assault and drug use in 2013, superiors shut down his investigation. After that, Sergeant Enos said, he had his badge taken away and was told that he would be kicked out of the Air Force. The details of the letter were reported Aug. 9 in The New York Times.

Read more here.


Military’s sexual assault protections may expand to civilian base workers

Posted by POD Staff, August 19th, 2014

The Dayton Daily News reports:

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner said Monday that he will explore greater protections from sexual assault for civilian employees on military bases such as Wright-Patterson.

Turner, R-Dayton, and U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., met with Wright-Patterson leaders to learn how the base and Hansom Air Force Base in Tsongas’ home district, have reacted to legislative changes enacted in three major bills backed by the two lawmakers. The reforms tackled preventing a military commander from overturning a sexual assault conviction, ordering the dismissal from the military of a sexual assault perpetrator, and giving military-provided legal counsel to victims.

Turner and Tsongas co-chair the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus in the House of Representatives.

Read more here.


Military workplace survey to gauge sexual assault, harassment

Posted by POD Staff, August 19th, 2014

Stars and Stripes reports:

A biennial survey that tracks sexual harassment, sexual assault and other workplace issues in the U.S. military is being conducted on behalf of the Defense Department.

About 580,000 servicemembers have begun receiving emails or letters by post inviting them to participate in the confidential, web–based RAND Military Workplace Study, Defense Department officials announced Tuesday.

It’s the first time the RAND Corp., a federally funded research and development center, has conducted the workplace and gender relations survey. DOD in 2006 began surveying the active and reserve components to estimate the extent of sexual assault in the military.

Read more here.


Joni Ernst has already changed the debate on military sexual assault

Posted by POD Staff, August 19th, 2014

The Washington Examiner reports:

Joni Ernst’s support for changing how the military handles sexual assault may have more of an effect on Capitol Hill than on her campaign.

The Iowa Republican Senate candidate made news when she told Time last week that she believes military sexual assault cases should be handled outside of the chain of command.

Though Ernst didn’t say whether she’d back any specific legislation, that’s the same approach taken in a bill by Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand which failed by just five votes earlier this year.

It’s also the same position as her Democratic opponent, Rep. Bruce Braley.

Read more here.


De Blasio’s latest appointment is ‘personal’

Posted by POD Staff, August 18th, 2014

Crain’s New York Business reports:

Dr. Loree Sutton, a former U.S. Army brigadier general and a psychiatrist, was named commissioner of the Office of Veterans’ Affairs by Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday.

Mr. de Blasio said the selection of Dr. Sutton was “personal and real for me and my family.” The mayor’s estranged father, Warren Wilhelm, lost half his leg in World War II and later took his own life.

The mayor also cited Dr. Sutton’s reputation as an expert in mental health and brain injuries in the military.

“This is a crucial time for new leadership for this office,” Mr. de Blasio said. “The needs are great and more complicated than ever.”

Read more here.


De Blasio Names Retired Brigadier General Loree Sutton to Lead Veterans’ Affairs

Posted by POD Staff, August 18th, 2014

The New York Observer reports:

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that Loree Sutton, a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General and psychiatrist, will serve as the city’s next Commissioner of Veterans’ Affairs.

Ms. Sutton served in the military for more than 20 years, deploying to places including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt in support of the first Gulf War and other missions. She also founded the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury in 2007, running it as the Army’s top psychiatrist before retiring from the military in 2010.

In announcing her appointment, Mr. de Blasio made reference to the national crisis surrounding gridlock in federal Veterans’ Affairs hospitals and access to mental health services, and spoke personally about his own father’s struggles in the aftermath of losing half his leg during World War II.

Read more here.

Brig. Gen. Sutton was formerly the highest ranking psychiatrist in the U.S. Army and was featured in the Academy Award nominated The Invisible War. Last year, Sutton announced her support for reforming the justice system through the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), and has consistently been a staunch advocate for victims, and we look forward to her continued advocacy in her new role.

 


TIME: Ernst Says She Was Sexually Harassed in the Military

Posted by POD Staff, August 15th, 2014

TIME Magazine reports:

Republican State Sen. Joni Ernst, who is running for Senate and served more than 20 years in the military, said Friday that she was sexually harassed in the military and, given her experience, is backing the removal of cases of sexual assault from the military chain of command, a position that puts her at odds with much of the GOP.

“I had comments, passes, things like that,” Ernst tells TIME. “These were some things where I was able to say stop and it simply stopped but there are other circumstances both for women and for men where they don’t stop and they may be afraid to report it.”

Read more here.


Kirsten Gillibrand, Pushing New College Sexual Assault Bill, Still Has Hope For Failed Military Reform

Posted by POD Staff, August 15th, 2014

BuzzFeed reports:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand still believes she can convince the last several senators who voted against her sweeping and controversial effort to change the way the military prosecutes sexual assault.

The New York Democrat’s bill that would take the prosecution of sexual assault cases outside the military failed 55-45 in March, a surprisingly narrow defeat. In an interview with BuzzFeed, the New York Democrat said Wednesday she thinks she can “win over the last few senators” with a new, shifted approach.

Gillibrand has requested the raw data for all sexual assaults from “the four major bases, one for each of the services.” Instead of focusing on the nine out of 10 service members who don’t report assaults, Gillibrand wants to focus on the one in 10 who do. She believes looking at that smaller set of people will demonstrate the discrepancies in what the military says publicly on the topic.

Read more here.


PR firm that represented disgraced general puts itself up for an award

Posted by POD Staff, August 14th, 2014

The Washington Post reports:

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair found himself under the bright lights of the national media after he was charged by Army authorities with forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct and other crimes in 2012. It came at a time when the Pentagon already was under scrutiny for its inability to stop sexual assault in the military, and marked the rarest of occasions: a senior officer facing criminal charges.

The Army prosecuted him for nearly two years, but dropped the most serious charges in March as part of a plea deal in which Sinclair admitted having an affair with his female accuser, a captain who worked directly for him during deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Awkward details about their volatile relationship spilled out publicly– she had called him “Poppa Panda Sexy Pants” before their relationship soured. Sinclair, a married father of two, avoided jail time, instead receiving a career-ending reprimand and a $20,000 fine.

Five months later, a public relations firm that assisted the general in the case is in contention for a prestigious award. MWW, of East Rutherford, N.J., nominated itself in the crisis management category in the Platinum PR Awards, an MWW official confirmed. Doing so highlights their work in a case that confounded some legal experts who believe Sinclair got off lightly.

Read more here.


Spangdahlem-based Air Force pilot convicted of rape

Posted by POD Staff, August 14th, 2014

Stars and Stripes reports:

An Air Force fighter pilot was convicted of rape last week, nine years after he committed the crime against a young airman.

Lt. Col. Michael J. Briggs, an F-16 pilot who was the 52nd Fighter Wing chief of safety at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, was convicted on Aug. 7, according to Air Force officials, after a weeklong court-martial before a military judge.

The judge sentenced Briggs, 40, to five months in jail, dismissal from the Air Force and a reprimand.

The rape occurred in 2005 while Briggs was on a temporary duty assignment at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, officials said.

Read more here.


Air Force Coaches Told to Help Curb Assaults

Posted by POD Staff, August 14th, 2014

The Associated Press reports:

The superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy said Wednesday that she has told athletic coaches to take a bigger role in preventing sexual assaults, pulling them into the yearslong campaign at the school to stem abuse.

Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, who took charge of the school a year ago, said coaches had not been fully involved in what she called the broader conversation about school standards.

Johnson said she has spoken with them twice about her expectations and told them to talk to athletes about sexual assault.

Read more here.


Academy leaders express shame, outrage over sex-related crimes

Posted by POD Staff, August 13th, 2014

The Denver Post reports:

Air Force Academy Superintendent Michelle Johnson and other academy leaders pledged Wednesday to combat a culture that allowed star athletes to commit sex crimes.

In one interview after another, generals and colonels spoke of their pride in the institution, their determination to restore honor and their sympathy for the victimized female cadets. Some mentioned they have daughters and granddaughters themselves.

“I am deeply concerned about these things,” said Lt. Gen. Johnson, the first female superintendent of a major military academy.

But “I can’t go back. I can only go forward,” she said.

The Thunderbirds preform after the commencement ceremony at Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

The Denver Post and The Gazette in Colorado Springs recently reported details of a 2011 house party in Manitou Springs. Following the party, allegations were made of date rape drugs, sexual assaults of passed-out female cadets and threats by the football players to victims and witnesses.

Read more here.


[VIDEO] Battle over dedication to the military

Posted by POD Staff, August 13th, 2014

The Des Moines Register reports:

James says Braley introduced legislation that would help people who were victims of sexual assault in the military. “When Holley was murdered, what I was more afraid of than anything is that the world would go on and it would be as though Holley never existed. Bruce Braley helped keep that memory alive and ads more permanence to Holley,” the father says in the ad.

The Braley campaign says in the ad: “The Holley Lynn James Act has strengthened protections for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in the military.”

The bill didn’t become law and was never voted on in committee. The Braley campaign says the Pentagon in 2012 announced directives that implemented several provisions of the act, including requiring sexual assault allegations be immediately reported to senior commanders.

Read more here.


Expert: Military Sex Assault Bill Doesn’t Have Legs

Posted by POD Staff, August 12th, 2014

NBC San Diego reports:

Military criminal defense attorney and retired Marine Colonel Jane Siegel has been involved in a lot of sexual assault cases.

Seigel applauds the bill saying its good in theory but notes California has no jurisdiction over the U.S. Armed Forces.

“Right now it’s a paper tiger,” she said. “They’re doing the right thing for the right reasons but it doesn’t have the legs.”

CMD’s don’t have dedicated judicial departments to adjudicate sexual assaults so policy dictates the cases get farmed out to local authorities. Padilla’s bill would make it a law not just policy.

Read more here.


Military Appeals Court Agrees To Review Evidence Used To Convict Kansas Airman

Posted by POD Staff, August 12th, 2014

The Associated Press reports:

The nation’s highest military court has agreed to review the evidence used to convict a Kansas airman of aggravated assault for exposing multiple sex partners to HIV at swinger parties in Wichita, an appeal the defense contends could potentially remap HIV testing and prosecution in the U.S. military.

The attorney for David Gutierrez said Monday that the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces is expected to hear arguments sometime later this year.

The court will also consider whether Gutierrez’s due process rights were violated because of how long the appeal has taken.

Read more here.


California Military Sexual Assault Legislation Headed to Governor Brown – SB 1422

Posted by POD Staff, August 11th, 2014

California Newswire reports:

A bill to remove investigations and prosecutions of military sexual assault cases from the chain of command is headed to Governor Jerry Brown for his consideration. The bill was given final legislative approval today on a unanimous 36 to 0 bipartisan vote of the State Senate. Senate Bill 1422, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would require that cases of sexual assault of a service member of the California Military Department (CMD) be subject to the jurisdiction of local civilian authorities.

“Sexual assault is a serious problem throughout our military. While Washington debates how to address this crisis, California can lead by example. Victims of sexual assault deserve our support and a respectful and effective justice system,” said Senator Alex Padilla.

Read more here.


VA has higher burden of proof for PTSD claims related to sex trauma

Posted by POD Staff, August 8th, 2014

The Medill News Service reports:

Jamie Livingston joined the Navy in 2000 because she “wanted to be part of something bigger than myself.”

But during her seven years in uniform, she was sexually harassed and says she was subsequently raped twice, and now is fighting for disability benefits to cover the trauma stemming from her experiences — a fight that many victims of military sexual trauma suffer through, experts say.

Livingston was 19 and had just arrived at Naval Station Everett, Washington, when her direct supervisor, a chief petty officer, ordered her to perform sexual favors and “show her body” before getting the approval she needed to work on the flight deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln.

Read more here.


Colorado lawmakers back inquiry into Air Force Academy athletics

Posted by POD Staff, August 5th, 2014

Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish and Policy Director Miranda Petersen are featured in this report from the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Also on Monday, the group Protect our Defenders in Washington, D.C., said the academy hasn’t addressed concerns over a climate that its president claims makes the school a “target-rich environment for sexual predators.”

The group’s president, Nancy Parrish, sent a letter to the school’s Board of Visitors on April 4 airing the claims of an academy worker that cadets who report sexual assaults are subject to harassment and ostracism. That makes victims reluctant to seek justice, Parrish wrote.

Defenders’ policy chief Miranda Petersen said issues occur because cadets who bring criminal allegations are quickly identified within the academy’s insular community.

“If they all know you made an allegation against a popular football player, there’s an environment that turns on the victim,” Petersen said.

Academy spokesman Lt. Col. Brus Vidal said Monday that while leaders haven’t replied to Protect our Defenders, they have been examining the allegations the group has raised since leaders were notified by the Board of Visitors in late June.

“The Protect our Defenders assertions were very serious and demanded a serious inquiry and response – a matter not easily addressed in less than a few weeks’ time,” Vidal said.

Read more here.


Opinion: Service academies should lead fight against sexual violence

Posted by POD Staff, August 5th, 2014

Washington Times columnist Deron Snyder writes:

Charges against two players were dropped and the other player was found not guilty by a military judge. But the proceedings fueled a debate that went beyond the academies, expanding to the U.S. military’s handling of sexual violence among its 2.2 million service members.

One concern is that the military system is ill-equipped to deal with the issue. According to the Department of Defense, sexual assault complaints at the service academies rose from 25 in 2008-09 to 80 in 2011-12. In the military, complaints rose from 2,688 in fiscal 2007 to 5,061 in fiscal 2013.

Read more here.


Court: Leaders not liable for subordinates’ bad decisions

Posted by POD Staff, August 5th, 2014

The Army Times reports:

Janet Galla was serving as a hospital corpsman on a Navy ship in 2004 when she was brutally attacked by a co-worker.

On June 11, after returning to the ship from dinner with friends, she stopped by the medical department to check her email. She was approached by a fellow corpsman who lured her into an empty operating room and then raped her after she rebuffed his advances.

Galla reported the assault and her attacker later was convicted. But from that night on, the rape haunted her.

Read more here.

 


Broken Code: AFA superintendent calls for investigation of athletic transgressions

Posted by POD Staff, August 4th, 2014

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

Sexual assault and substance abuse have been problems at the Air Force Academy for decades. And in the past two years, the academy has recorded more reports of sexual assault than the nation’s other two service academies combined.

In the 2012-2013 academic year, cadets reported 45 sexual assaults, representing nearly two-thirds of the 70 reported assaults at all three major military academies.

Commanders have repeatedly said that the reason there are so many sexual assaults reported at Air Force is that their aggressive steps have made cadets more comfortable in discussing one of the nation’s most under-reported crimes.

Read more here.


NY Times: Air Force Academy to Examine Conduct of Cadet Athletes

Posted by POD Staff, August 3rd, 2014

The New York Times reports:

The superintendent of the Air Force Academy has begun an investigation into allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct among its cadet athletes, academy officials said Sunday.

The superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, said she has called on the academy’s inspector general to examine the athletic department after reports of sexual assault, drug use, cheating and other violations of the academy’s honor code.

“This past behavior was troubling and suggested certain subcultures that were inconsistent with the culture of commitment and climate of respect we work hard to uphold,” she said in a statement.

Read more here.


MR. MST Reacts to Confirmation of New Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Posted by POD Staff, July 30th, 2014

Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee Member Brian Lewis writes for the Good Men Project:

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing last week to discuss the nomination of Robert McDonald as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Mr. McDonald did a credible job in front of the committee in making commitments to the senators and explaining his vision for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate confirmed Secretary McDonald this week as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. However, there’s one area in which both Mr. McDonald and the Committee fell down on the job.

The Committee failed to ask any questions about, and Mr. McDonald failed to make any statement about, the care crisis facing male military sexual trauma survivors in the Veterans Health Administration. In fact, members of the Committee hinted that military sexual trauma is viewed by the Committee as solely a “women’s issue.” It is this problem that continues to make men invisible as victims of sexual crimes. Before we get into the Committee’s distressing attitude toward male survivors, a little background on the Department of Veterans Affairs is helpful.

Read more here.


[VIDEO] U.S. Rep. Walorski touts push against military sexual assaults, bipartisanship in new political ad

Posted by POD Staff, July 30th, 2014

The Elkhart Truth reports:

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski is out with her second ad of the political season, citing her push to combat military sexual assaults and, again, playing on the theme of bipartisanship.

“Jackie stands up for what she believes in and it doesn’t matter which party or who she’s up against,” Lisa Wilken, a veteran’s advocate, says.

Walorski, seeking her second term to the 2nd District seat, which covers north-central Indiana, including Elkhart County, authored legislation last year aimed at fighting sexual assaults in the military. The measure, House Resolution 1864, passed unanimously in June 2013 and the language was eventually inserted into the military spending bill for 2014, inked into law last December.

Read more here.


Bill aims to strengthen forensic training in sexual assault cases

Posted by POD Staff, July 30th, 2014

The Military Times reports:

The Defense Department must improve its procedures for investigating sexual assaults by standardizing training requirements for medical experts who examine victims and analyze rape kits, a bipartisan group of lawmakers say.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, will introduce legislation Wednesday designed to strengthen the Pentagon’s sex assault forensic examiner cadre by improving training and certification, and requiring more personnel be trained in taking DNA samples and other physical evidence following an attack.

The bill would define who is eligible to serve as a sexual assault forensic examiner, require that at least one trained examiner be assigned to every military treatment facility and all Navy ships, and standardize training and certification across the services.

Read more here.


Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee Member Brian Lewis Responds to Proposed Veterans Affairs Reform Bill

Posted by POD Staff, July 29th, 2014

This week, a conference committee of House and Senate leaders on veteran issues signed off on a new Veteran Affairs reform bill that attempts to address some issues related to sexual assault in the military.

Some of the reforms include expanding VA counseling to include active-duty and reserve troops. The bill also promises to conduct a report comparing the treatment and services available to male veterans who experienced sexual trauma in the military with those available to female veterans.

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Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee Member and Survivor Brian Lewis who testified last year at a Veteran’s Affairs hearing, responded to the proposed reforms:

“Just as with the military, the time for reports about how the Veterans Health Administration treats male survivors of military sexual trauma has passed long ago. Male survivors who have already sacrificed so much should not be asked to wait for another two years to see the results of another report with no promise of resource parity in sight.

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Just what’s in the VA reform bill, and can lawmakers pass it before recess?

Posted by POD Staff, July 29th, 2014

Stars and Stripes reports:

Sex assault: The military has struggled with how to handle and treat sexual assault. Lawmakers want to more VA assistance in overcoming has been called an epidemic.

  • VA counseling would be expanded to include active-duty and reserve troops
  • A report would be done comparing the treatment and services available to male veterans who experienced sexual trauma in the military with those available to female veterans.

Read more here.


A Sailor, a Survivor and a Victim’s Advocate

Posted by POD Staff, July 28th, 2014

The Daily Press reports:

Petty Officer 1st Class Bonnie McCammond remembers the 2009 housewarming party as a night of celebration and plenty of drinking.

The hosts provided plenty of space for the guests to crash. No one intended to drive home. But when Bonnie woke up early the next morning, another sailor was on top of her and she was being assaulted.

Before leaving the next day, the sailor said he had a great time and asked for her number.

McCammond didn’t say anything right away, and it took a long time before she could share her story publicly. But this year, McCammond became the first featured subject in a new Navy video series titled “Broken Links.”

In it, she talks about what needs to happen for the Navy to move forward in the war on sexual assault.

Read more here.


More Military Sex Assault Reports a Positive Sign?

Posted by POD Staff, July 28th, 2014

The Daily Press reports:

Military leaders cite several new reforms meant to improve the system going forward.

They will evaluate training for sexual assault prevention and response officers, create an online forum to share information and encourage male victims to come forward. Another is a review of alcohol policies.

Congress has enacted several changes as well, although some say more needs to be done.

The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law in December 2013, strips commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, installs civilian review of decisions to not prosecute cases, provides victims with their own independent legal counsel and requires dishonorable discharge or dismissal for anyone convicted of sexual assault.

Read more here.


Military Sexual Assault Victims Cannot Sue for Damages

Posted by POD Staff, July 25th, 2014

Care2 reports:

Janet Galla was 21 when she joined the Navy in 1999, following a proud family tradition. She served as a Hospital Corpsman where she earned high praise for her work. In 2004, Galla had returned to her ship from dinner and checked her email in the ship’s Medical Department. A fellow Corpsman asked for assistance with something in one of the operating rooms. Once in there, he tried to kiss her. She resisted and tried to leave the room, but he prevented her from leaving and then raped her. She immediately reported the rape and her attacker was ultimately convicted and sent to prison.

It was then that Galla’s nightmare really began.

From the time she reported the rape, Galla’s chain of command continued to torment her. She was unable to perform her job after they refused to allow her to work in confined spaces with male colleagues “for her own protection.” Since she wasn’t able to do her job, she started receiving poor performance evaluations and was told her presence was bad for the ship’s morale. After transferring to a land duty station and suffering from PTSD, the chain of command continued the retaliation by singling her out for drug and alcohol testing and accusing her of using the rape to justify her poor performance. One commander even told her that “the rape was only five minutes of her life” and that she needed “to get over it already.” In 2005, she accepted the Navy’s offer for immediate separation.

Read more here.


Why We Need to Talk About the Sexual Assault of Men and Boys

Posted by POD Staff, July 25th, 2014

The Huffington Post reports:

We see the deliberate minimization of this issue every day, such as when a news article pops up about an adult teacher that “had sex” with an underage male student. Or when the only portrayals of military sexual assault depict female victims. (Mind you, of the 26,000 reported military sexual assaults, around 14,000 were male victims; and because of the increased hesitance of men to report, that number is estimated to be much higher). Or when a story about a boy’s rape at school is labeled a “hazing attack.

Read more here.


A Message from Paula Coughlin and Nancy Parrish: Good Community News & Opportunities, Summer Edition!

Posted by POD Staff, July 24th, 2014

Protect Our Defenders would like to take a moment to share with you a sample of the good works and opportunities happening in our community right now.

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BriGette is recognized: Protect Our Defenders Advisory Board member BriGette McCoy was just honored with the 2014 WNBA Atlanta Dream Inspiring Woman Award. The Atlanta Dream team called BriGette “a trailblazing woman who is making a significant impact in the community while creating a path for others to follow.” And this month, the Atlanta Veterans Affairs committee appointed BriGette as a new member of the committee. We thank BriGette for her continued service!

Opportunity for male survivors: Would you be interested in sharing feedback on the way sexual assaults of men are handled in the military? The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is conducting an independent, non-partisan review about how serving in the military may impact the decision of male service members to report sexual assaults. All conversations will be confidentialclick here to learn more and participate.

A free retreat for women: On September 7-12, 2014 in Rhinebeck, New York, the Omega Institute is hosting a free retreat for women who are currently serving or who have served in the military. This women-only retreat focuses on the unique issues of women’s military service and builds a safe, supportive environment to explore the strengths, resilience, concerns, and vulnerabilities of women who have served.Protect Our Defenders is also offering a limited number of travel stipends for women in the New York area. Find out more here.

Supporting veterans: POD Advisory Board members like Terri Odom, a US Army and Navy veteran, are actively supporting survivors and veterans this summer. Terri will be speaking on July 29 at the Florida Sexual Crimes Investigators Association training conference for a wide audience of investigators and prosecutors of sexual violence as well as counselors and advocates for victims. She’s also volunteering at the VFW National Convention in St. Louis this month and is helping with the St. Louis Welcome Home Warrior Summit to be held in September.

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The Monument Quilt: This August, survivors of sexual violence and advocates will be stitching hundreds of bright, red quilt squares to be displayed in community spaces across the country. The organizers of the Monument Quilt invite survivors to join them during their 12-city tour. “By stitching our stories together, we are creating and demanding public space to heal,” says Hannah Brancato, Co-Director of the project.

Justice Denied screening: On July 24, the documentary Justice Denied featuring social worker Geri Lynn Matthews and her husband Michael will be screened in Washington, DC at the National Association of Social Workers National Conference. Social workers across the country will have the chance to view the film and learn more about the issue of sexual assault of males in our military.

I hope the rest of your summer goes well. I’ll look forward to sharing more good community news and opportunities again this fall.

Warmly,

Paula Coughlin
Board of Directors, Protect Our Defenders

Nancy Parrish
Founder and President, Protect Our Defenders


Washington Post: Navy to retool Blue Angels after scandal

Posted by POD Staff, July 23rd, 2014

The Washington Post reports:

The Navy’s investigative report examining the leadership of former Blue Angels commanding officer Capt. Gregory McWherter is filled with embarrassing details that raise questions about his leadership and the culture in the squadron. The Navy found that McWherter chose not to stop sexual harassment and condoned pornography and creepy behavior in the workplace.

“I believe he… became susceptible to hubris and arrogance, blinding him to the common sense judgments expected of all service members, but especially those entrusted with command,” Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, wrote in the investigation’s final report.

One example: As the investigation puts it, “a large blue and gold penis was painted on the roof of the center point trailer at the Blue Angels’ winter training facilities in El Centro.” It was so large, it was “visible from satellite imagery,” including those used on Google Maps.

Read more here.


ELLE Magazine: Inside the Lives of Soldier Girls

Posted by POD Staff, July 22nd, 2014

Journalist Helen Thorpe discusses her new book tracking the parallel lives of three women soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with Elle Magazine:

You write that “eventually as many as one third of the women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan would report having been subjected to a sexual assault of some kind during their deployments.” Knowing that, did their stories still shock you?

I had heard some of those statistics, but when you hear them in a vacuum it’s hard to understand how they could be true. I had to dig a little bit to get them to tell me those things. But when they described the environment, it all became more explicable. There are so many more men, women are viewed as commodities, they’re very scarce, the men are competing for them, there’s illicit drinking going on sometimes, and everybody’s under a lot of stress. They didn’t think to tell me they needed a buddy to go to the shower: That’s just the way it was. You start to understand how these awful statistics could get so high.

Read more here.