Mission: We honor, support, and give voice to the brave men and women in uniform who have been raped or sexually assaulted by fellow service members. We seek to fix the military training, investigation and adjudication systems related to sexual violence, systems that often re-victimize survivors by blaming them while failing to prosecute perpetrators.
A Survivors' Community
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.”
August 21, 2014 Contact: Max Wertheimer, 415-302-1584, email@example.com
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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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 confidential—click here to learn more and participate.
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.
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.
Board of Directors, Protect Our Defenders
Founder and President, Protect Our Defenders
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.
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.
A year after he took the reins at West Point, Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. still puts addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault at the top of his priority list.
But Caslen informed the military academy’s Board of Visitors on Monday that progress is being made.
“My main focus is on prevention,” Caslen said.
Cases at West Point have ranged from a coach who was fired last year for alleged inappropriate behavior toward a staff member, to an Army sergeant stationed at West Point who pleaded guilty at a court-martial earlier this year after being accused of secretly photographing and videotaping women.
An investigation into last year’s firing of a senior Marine Corps officer reveals that at least six female subordinates told authorities he had touched them inappropriately or made lewd comments to them.
Col. Tracy Tafolla, 48, was removed as commander of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate in Quantico, Va., in May 2013. The command investigation, released to Marine Corps Times through a Freedom of Information Act request, contains pages of testimony transcript from female witnesses who described Tafolla’s behavior as “red zone” on the Navy’s “stoplight” chart for workplace behavior, and recalled going to extreme lengths to avoid being left alone with him.
Despite the investigation’s damning revelations, Marine officials said Tafolla remains on active duty.
A spirit of crisis marks the discussion of sexual assault in America lately, as pressures build in colleges, courts, legislatures, and the military to address the problem of abusive behavior that overwhelmingly victimizes women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that one in five college women have experienced sexual assault or attempted sexual assault, while the Pentagon estimates that 26,000 sex crimes occurred in the US military in 2012. Senator Claire McCaskill, who last spring shepherded a military sexual assault bill through a unanimous Senate, is soon to introduce a bipartisan bill to strengthen federal protections of undergraduates. “We refuse,” she said, “to let students fend for themselves against such violence.”
The suit was brought on behalf of Ariana Klay and 11 other current and former sailors and Marines. During their service, 10 say they were either raped or sexually assaulted by fellow members of the armed forces. One said she was the target of severe sexual harassment by Marines and a fellow Navy Corpsman with whom she deployed. The attacks and harassment left the alleged victims with “a range of serious physical and psychological injuries,” according to the court.
The Defense Department teamed up with the Justice Department to produce an advanced training program for advocates who provide support to military victims of sexual assault, senior DoD and Justice Department officials said.
DoD collaborated with the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime to develop a curriculum that expands on the skills learned in initial sexual assault response coordinator and sexual assault prevention and response victim advocate training. The Advanced Military Sexual Assault Advocate Training is designed to enhance victim advocacy skills across the services, officials said.
On Saturday, the issue will again take center stage as the festival’s free Saturday Lecture Series continues at 4:30 p.m. in Reynolds Hall at 109 N. King St. in Shepherdstown. Miranda Petersen, programs and policy director of the Protect Our Defenders Foundation, is the featured speaker.
Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee Member Brian Lewis writes for The Good Men Project:
The Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel released its report regarding the scourge of military sexual trauma. This was the supposedly independent panel (not really) established by Congress to examine how the military was combating the longstanding crimes of rape and sexual trauma in the military and to make recommendations as to how the military can do better. There has been a lot of talk about the recommendations to keep reporting and adjudication within the chain of command. However, there is one recommendation no one is talking about.
More specifically, providing more resources for healing and more funding for research on survivors of male-on-male rape and assault in the military. There is no dispute that men are the majority of victims within the military. What is new is that male victims are finally being recognized and noticed for the huge lack of resources facing them? No, wait, that’s not new either…
Earlier this year, after a woman was allegedly assaulted by members of the Naval Academy football team, she was questioned for 20 hours by 12 attorneys and forced to answer questions about her sexual history. She was asked whether or not she wore a bra, how wide she opened her mouth during oral sex, and if she considered herself a “ho” after the alleged assault occurred.
These failures aren’t even limited to college or military investigations. Law enforcement officials have been found to be equally ill-prepared to handle these cases. “Law enforcement officials at 30 percent of institutions in the national sample receive no training on how to respond to reports of sexual violence,” according to the findings. A recent national survey also found that law enforcement lack this crucial training, and often use a narrow conceptions about rape — namely, that only stranger rape involving a weapon or physical force counts as rape — to guide their investigations. As a result, victims suffer.
Posted by Nancy Parrish, POD President, July 13th, 2014
PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS 2014 (2nd QUARTER) MEDIA REPORT
Protect Our Defenders (POD) continues to be the leading voice for victims of rape and sexual assault in the military. Our organization has also directly influenced policy recommendations passed earlier this year in Congress to help survivors, and ensure that our active duty service members are given access to a justice system equal to the one they protect.
We continue to work with survivors through our Pro-Bono Legal Network Program, which celebrates its 1-year anniversary this month. Our Peer-to-Peer Support program remains active, connecting survivors to those who can offer emotional support and information.
POD and our members have been featured in more than 700 articles and broadcast stories. These include pieces in all the major newspaper and television broadcast outlets. The issue has also made its way out of news cycle and into pop culture.
The epidemic of military sexual assault was a running storyline in the acclaimed series House of Cards. The series included an incident ripped straight from the headlines, where, Robin Wright’s character, Claire Underwood quotes a military brochure on sexual assault prevention that advises victims to submit to an attack rather than resist. Less than a year before, Protect Our Defenders broke the real life story of a brochure at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. that recommended submitting to an attack. The issue of sexual assault in the military was even featured in a sketch by comedian Amy Schumer.
Below are highlights and prominent stories that POD has been involved with over the past few months. To see all the work POD has accomplished in 2014, you can also look back at our 2014 1st Quarter Media Report.
Congress Adopts Provisions Proposed by Protect Our Defenders
On May 22, the House of Representatives passed their version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015. The bill included several provisions proposed by Protect Our Defenders, who worked closely in formulating critical improvements with Congresswomen Jackie Speier (D-CA), who sponsored the amendments.
These amendments included:
Limiting the “Good Military Character” defense to military-specific crimes, so that an accused rapist can no longer be found “not guilty” simply for being a good soldier;
Guaranteeing victims the right to appeal rulings regarding therapist-patient privilege;
And closing the loophole that military judges use to justify turning over victims’ confidential therapy records to their alleged rapist.
2014 Pentagon Report on Sexual Assault in the Military
In early May 2014, the Department of Defense (DoD) released their annual report on sexual assault in the military, which highlighted the need for fundamental reform, transparency, and accountability. According to the annual survey, reports of rape and sexual assault increased over 50%–from 3,374 total reports, with 2,558 unrestricted and 816 restricted, in 2012 to 5,061 total reports last year, with 3,768 unrestricted and 1,293 restricted. Based on earlier reports, we also know that over 50% of victims report the perpetrator was of higher rank and at least 23% of victims report the perpetrator was in their chain of command.
Media outlets relied on POD for comments and analysis in order to make sense of this new information coming out of the Pentagon. Along with releasing a statement, President Nancy Parrish’s comments were featured in articles from the Washington Post, Bloomberg News, Reuters and many others.
POD Advisory Board Member and regular CNN contributor BriGette McCoy also wrote an op-ed that was featured in The Guardian the day after the report was released. And NBC News interviewed Brian Lewis, another POD Advisory Board Member for a story about the increase in numbers coming from the new report.
Petition Calling on President Obama to Rescind Executive Order
On June 13, 2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order, proposed by the Pentagon undermining essential “rape shield” protections for sexual assault victims in the military. This order severely weakens victims’ privacy rights, and delivers a substantial blow to ongoing efforts by those who have been working tirelessly to reform the military justice system.
In response, POD worked with Tailhook whistleblower Paula Coughlin, a Protect Our Defenders’ Executive Board Member to create a petition on Causes.com, calling on the President to rescind the portions of the Executive Order that undermine basic privacy protections for victims of sexual assault in the military. In less than one week the petition received over 4,000 signatures.
To promote the petition Nancy Parrish wrote a blog that was featured by the Huffington Post, while other advocates and influencers also joined with POD to spread the word. Arianna Huffington retweeted Nancy’s blog post to her 1.5 million Twitter followers. Causes.com and the Invisible War shared the petition on their social networks, and POD promoted the petition through our social networks as well.
In response to the President’s action, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) offered an amendment, approved by the House, which prohibits funding to implement the offending portion of the Executive Order. Rep Speier’s office subsequently quoted POD President Nancy Parrish in a press release announcing the amendment’s approval.
Through Facebook, Twitter and Causes.com, POD continues to organize and communicate with our large survivor network.
POD has over 14,000 users following us on Facebook, with 10,000 new followers in just the past 6 months. POD has over 1,500 followers on Twitter. We also have nearly 19,000 supporters on Causes.com, the world’s largest online campaigning platform. POD uses all of our social networks to engage with survivors, media outlets, reporters, elected leaders and other advocacy organizations. POD has also been mentioned alongside other high profile non-profit organizations by SalsaLabs, one of the premiere online platforms for advocacy groups. And POD has over 20,000 subscribers to our email news updates.
In the coming months, we will work with our survivor community to launch a full-scale campaign targeting elected officials and will elevate our call for fundamental reform to our broken military justice system.
A Virginia Military Institute cadet alleges that a male campus police officer, while investigating a theft from her dorm room, led her to a basement room, ordered her to strip and then performed a body cavity search. State police investigated and charged her with making a false report to law enforcement officers, and she has filed a sexual discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.
The cadet, who was scheduled to graduate in May, faces a hearing in August in Rockbridge County General District Court and an honor court prosecution that could result in VMI denying her a degree. On the advice of her Lexington attorney, Tom Simons, the cadet is talking with reporters about the charge and the civil rights discrimination complaint she filed following her June arrest. The Roanoke Times does not publish the names of possible victims of sexual assault, unless the person gives permission. In this case, the woman asked that her name not be published.
As if they deliberately meant to top their tone-deaf response to that issue, the entire gang assembled before Congress to deliver, as Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) told the assembled military leaders, a “stunningly bad” round of answers on the issue of sexual assault in the ranks. For an encore, they gave us the Jeff Sinclair trial.
A judge gave hope to the family of a soldier convicted of sexual assault last week when he said he plans to recommend the conviction be overturned.
During the sentencing phase of Pfc. Thomas A. Chestnut’s court-martial July 2, Col. Gregory Gross said he researched how to overturn the conviction himself, but he couldn’t find a way to do it.
“I’ll recommend the convening authority overturn the conviction,” the judge said.
Chestnut was found guilty by a military jury June 24 of one specification of sexual assault and found not guilty of one specification of assault consummated by a battery. He was sentenced July 2 to three years in prison, reduction in rank to private and a dishonorable discharge.
The issue of MST garnered national attention this past winter, with a proposed Senate bill to make it easier for service members to report sexual assaults by shifting prosecution outside the chain of command. The measure was eventually defeated while a less controversial bill advanced to the House, but the media coverage helped bring the issue to the forefront for the public. This may partly explain why majorities of nonveterans say the military is not doing enough to address sexual assault, rape, and sexual harassment in the armed services. In fact, nonveterans are more likely than veterans to say the military has done too little to address MST issues, suggesting that the public widely perceives such conduct as a problem.
“The primary goal is to increase confidence and put it in the hands of people trained in law to make decisions. We don’t let commanders decide who is having an operation, doctors in the military decide that,” said Bryant.
Bryant says he didn’t always feel that way–but changed his views after several months of official hearings and testimony from more than 650 people, many of them military officers.
Harvey Bryant hoped the panel he was appointed to last year would bring a sea change to the military’s handling of sexual assaults. Instead, Virginia Beach’s former top prosecutor says the group’s recommendations are little more than “a wading pool.”
He was one of nine members on a panel that examined the handling of military sexual assault and made recommendations for improving the process. The group submitted a 284-page report to Congress on June 27.
Bryant, who served for 13 years as Virginia Beach commonwealth’s attorney before retiring last year, said his biggest disappointment was the panel’s support for keeping authority over the judicial process in the hands of military commanders.
Howard also reacted to recent comments made by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) about sexual assault in the military.
“Just last night a woman came to me and said that her daughter wanted to join the military and could I give my unqualified support for her doing so,” McCain said during a committee hearing. “I could not. I cannot overstate my disgust and disappointment at the continued reports of sexual misconduct in our military.”
In response, Howard said that she’s asked her sailors who are parents if they would allow their daughters to join — and almost always the answer is “absolutely.”
“We have to get after this sexual assault issue,” Howard said. “Sen. McCain is correct. But the Navy is the place to join.”
Protect Our Defenders is featured in this article from the San Antonio Express-News:
Nancy Parrish, founder of Protect Our Defenders, shares his belief that the military is out of step with the rest of society.
“At the heart of this debate are certain foundational principles of justice that are central to the identity of our nation and our citizens,” she explained. “These principles of equality, fairness, and blind justice should not be denied to any American simply for putting on the uniform and protecting our country.”
Even as defenders of the system resist change, Fidell, Parrish and other critics aren’t backing down.
A judge said he plans to recommend that a soldier’s sexual assault conviction be overturned.
During the sentencing phase of the court-martial of Pfc. Thomas A. Chestnut on Wednesday, Col. Gregory Gross, the judge in the case, said he researched how to overturn the conviction himself, but he can’t.
“I’ll recommend the convening authority overturn the conviction,” he said.
Chestnut was found guilty by a military jury June 24 of one specification of sexual assault and found not guilty of one specification of assault consummated by a battery.
Defense Department officials today announced the first Sexual Assault Prevention Innovation Award to recognize military and civilian contributions that advance the department’s goals of preventing sexual assault.
Core elements of the military’s strategy to prevent sexual assault include the promotion of innovative ideas and enhanced collaboration among the services, officials said.
In May, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled a new roadmap for preventing military sexual assault that officials said reflects a wide range of integrated programs to influence behavior and reduce the crime of sexual assault. The 2014-2016 Sexual Assault Prevention Strategy was developed in collaboration with civilian experts and is intensely focused on shaping the environment where service members live and work, officials said, noting that it expands on the initial strategy published in 2008.
In an attempt to look less attractive to the men she worked with in the Air Force, a female staff sergeant shaved her head. And to look tough, she drove a pick-up truck with mufflers. On Monday, during her testimony in military court, the self-described “tough mechanic” used a tissue to cover her eyes as she cried.
Seven jurors learned that there were reports that from 2007 to 2010 different men had sexually harassed her, sexually assaulted her several times and raped her in 2009 and 2010. The judge, Coast Guard Capt. Christine Cutter, in the 2010 rape trial in Miami referred to the incidents as potentially false.
June 30, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, firstname.lastname@example.org
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PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS RESPONDS TO PENTAGON’S SEXUAL ASSAULT PANEL FINDINGS THAT SUPPORT THE STATUS QUO
Panel Fails to Confront Fundamental Flaw Perpetuating Our Broken Military Justice System – Bias and Lack of Objectivity
Washington DC – Last week, the Pentagon’s Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel released their final report on “Whether Senior Commanders Should Retain Authority to Refer Cases of Sexual Assault to Courts-Martial” — siding with the status quo instead of an independent and impartial military justice system for our brave men and women in uniform.
The original intent behind this panel was to serve as a response to the ongoing crisis of rape and sexual assault in the military, and to investigate reports of mistreatment and retaliation against victims seeking justice. The fact of the matter is that victims continue to face a biased and hostile climate, suffering retaliation and intimidation when they do come forward to report the crime. Of those few victims who bravely come forward to report the crime, 60% stated they were retaliated against.
“It should come as no surprise that a panel, handpicked by those who oppose removing the handling of these crimes from the chain of command and staffed solely by Pentagon personnel, elected to support the status quo and arrived at the conclusion they were designed to reach,” said Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders. “This panel sadly became a tool to further delay needed reform. The fact that there was any dissent is remarkable.”
The Pentagon’s Response Panel completely missed the point—they failed to make recommendations that get to the heart of the bias and lack of objectivity perpetuating a broken military justice system. By failing to confront this fundamental flaw, crimes will continue to be ineffectively prosecuted, and cases will continue to be swept under the rug.
“At the heart of this debate are certain foundational principles of justice that are central to the identity of our nation and our citizens. These principles of equality, fairness, and blind justice should not be denied to any American simply for putting on the uniform and protecting our country, said Parrish. “It is disappointing to see this panel forgo the opportunity to finally ensure these rights are extended to our service members.”
Military leaders have enjoyed great deference from our leaders who, after being faced with decades of scandals and growing estimates of assaults within the ranks, have demonstrated an inability to effectively investigate and correct their own misconduct. Congress must remove the authority to handle these cases from the conflicted and often biased chain of command to protect service members and hold perpetrators accountable. The responsibility must be given to independent, professional prosecutors.
Al Jazeera America: Independent panel releases report on ending military sexual assault
About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders is a human rights organization. We seek to honor, support and give voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been sexually assaulted while serving their country, and re-victimized by the military adjudication system – a system that often blames the victim and fails to prosecute the perpetrator. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at www.protectourdefenders.com or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ProtectOurDefenders or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ProtectRDfnders.
Protect Our Defenders partners with Attorney Susan Burke, Burke PLLC to advance lawsuits filed against the DoD and service academies for repeatedly ignoring rape, sexual assault and harassment, failing to prosecute perpetrators and retaliating against the victim.
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish is featured in this article from Stars and Stripes:
But Nancy Parrish, president of victim advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, said she was not surprised the panel supported the status quo.
“This panel sadly became a tool to further delay needed reform,” she said, noting that the members of the panel were chosen by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and members of Congress who opposed the Gillibrand bill.
“The fact that there was any dissent is remarkable.”
Protect Our Defenders Advisory Board Member BriGette McCoy and Advocacy Committee Member Brian Lewis are featured in this story from Al Jazeera America:
During Al Jazeera America’s regular Sunday evening segment “The Week Ahead,” Thomas Drayton discussed the subject with Brian Lewis, a policy adviser at Protect Our Defenders, and Brigette McCoy, founder of Women’s Veterans for Social Justice, both survivors of sexual assault during their time in the service.
According to McCoy, some people are more confident in stepping forward, but many still feel limited in what they can say.
Lewis agreed and said that when he tried to take his case to authorities in 2000, he was told not to report it or he would face consequences. When he went ahead with the report, he was diagnosed with personality disorder and removed from service. He said a similar situation ensued when an airman tried to report a case last year.
“What that tells me is that nothing has changed in the last decade,” he said. “I know nothing has changed in the last 30 to 50 years.”
President Barack Obama plans to nominate former Procter and Gamble executive Robert McDonald to lead the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs, which has been plagued by long waits for treatment, a White House official said Sunday.
The president will formally announce his pick on Monday, exactly a month after Eric Shinseki, the VA secretary since the start of the Obama administration, resigned on May 30 after allegations of delayed care came to light.
The Air Force’s removal of a squadron commander for showing favoritism to subordinates in his unit has some in the service wondering about the boundaries of what constitutes improper fraternization and favoritism in military units.
Lt. Col. Craig Perry, former commander of the 737th Training Support Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, was formally removed from command in March for making derogatory statements about his immediate commander, deciding not to investigate alleged misconduct against one of his favored subordinates, and removing a letter of reprimand from the same subordinate’s personnel file, according to Air Force officials.
Officials encourage male victims to report sexual assault crimes:
While the number of reported sexual assaults shot up sharply in 2013, defense officials said that based on survey data and other information, they believe the increase was largely due to victims feeling more comfortable coming forward.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered six initiatives for the military, including the review of alcohol sales which addresses the risks of alcohol being used as a weapon by predators who might ply a victim with drinks before attacking.
“Sexual assault is a clear threat to the lives and the well-being of the women and men who serve our country in uniform. It destroys the bonds of trust and confidence that lie at the heart of our armed forces,” Hagel said in an article written by Washington Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor titled “Pentagon encouraging male victims of sexual assault to speak up.”
Questions remain as to why Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell waited almost four years to open an official investigation into 2010 Alaska National Guard chaplains’ reports to him of sexual assaults of particular servicewomen in the guard.
This is an important issue for all Alaskans. The sexual assault epidemic within U.S. military ranks rages on. Congress adopted many improvements to the military justice system in the fiscal year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, but hesitated to pass bipartisan legislation that would address the core problem – that is, removing prosecution from the chain of command as provided for in the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA, S. 967/H.R. 2016). The act would authorize an independent, specially trained and experienced prosecutor to handle these cases. Alaska Senate Joint Resolution 20, supporting the MJIA, languished in the Senate Rules Committee this year. And the U.S. Dept. of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office’s (SAPRO) FY2013 survey found formal sexual assault complaints within military ranks increased 50 percent over the previous year.
Ethical men and women have good cause to care and attend to the work and cost of eradicating sexual assault in U.S. military workplaces. Victims are friends and cherished relatives. And as most military personnel live and work among us, our communities absorb the consequences of military sexual assault as well as the consequences of military commanders’ unwillingness to prosecute their perpetrators.
When a veteran submits a disability claim for post-traumatic stress disorder, a troubling factor can predict whether he or she will ever receive benefits: whether that claim is related to sexual assault.
A recent Government Accountability Office report found that while the Department of Veterans Affairs is approving an increasing number of veterans’ PTSD claims, applications for PTSD related to sexual trauma are much more likely to be denied than those related to combat or other trauma.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier stood with victims of sexual assault in the military and offered an amendment on the floor of the Congress. The amendment, which was approved by the House, prohibits funding to implement and Executive Order signed by the President and proposed by the Pentagon that undermines essential “rape shield” protections for victims.
In a speech on the floor of the House, Rep. Speier said, ”Why should servicemembers be considered second class citizens in this country?”
The National Institute of Military Justice Blog highlighted Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish’s Huffington Post blog post on their site:
Nancy Parrish has an interesting Op-Ed in Huffington Post, here, discussing why she thinks the changes to Art. 32 hearings are a reversal of recent gains on behalf of victims of sexual assault in the military justice system. Our coverage of the changes being enacted is here and the Fed. Reg. notice is here.
A U.S. Army general who became the face of a sexual assault problem plaguing the military was demoted two grades from brigadier general to lieutenant colonel before being retired from service.
Jeffrey Sinclair will be retired at the lower rank as punishment for his inappropriate conduct with women under his command, the Army said in a statement. This is the first time in a decade that the Army has reduced a retiring general officer in rank so severely.
Retiring at this lower rank means that Sinclair will not receive benefits he was entitled to as Brigadier General.
“Sinclair displayed a pattern of inappropriate and at times illegal behavior both while serving as a Brigadier General and a Colonel. I therefore decided there was sufficient evidence and cause to deny him those benefits,” Secretary of the Army John McHugh said in the statement.
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish writes for the Huffington Post:
Last Friday, President Obama signed an Executive Order amending the Manual for Courts Martial (MCM) that includes provisions that severely undermine essential protections for sexual assault victims in the military. This order ignores victims’ privacy rights and delivers a huge blow to ongoing efforts by advocates and Congress to reform the broken military justice system.
The President’s order substantially weakens the protections of Military Rule of Evidence 412 (MRE 412), the military’s version of the “rape shield rule,” which prohibits admission of evidence of a victim’s prior sexual history and orientation unless ruled admissible by a military judge. Although MRE 412 is meant to apply only to courts-martial, this rule has been applied inconsistently, with many investigating officers (IO’s) permitting consideration of such evidence during Article 32 hearings. Victims’ advocates like Protect Our Defenders have been fighting to eliminate the de facto admission of this evidence during Article 32 hearings in an effort to protect victim privacy and to ensure that trained military judges alone have authority to make decisions on admissibility at trial.
Move puts Clinton on the other side of Obama, the Pentagon and Claire McCaskill on the issue
Hillary Clinton revealed a surprising position Tuesday: She actually supported Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill to take the handling of sexual assaults in the military outside the chain of command. The bill failed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate in March. Instead, a version sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, which tightens the Pentagon’s prosecution of such cases, passed into law.
From the interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour:
MS. AMANPOUR: So, do you believe — hard choice — would you take this out of the chain of command?
MS. CLINTON: Well, I supported my friend Kirsten Gillibrand, and she wanted to take it out of the chain of command.
MS. AMANPOUR: Yes, she did.
MS. CLINTON: And remember it’s not only women, it’s men, who’ve been assaulted as well.
MS. AMANPOUR: That’s what I said, but mostly women.
MS. CLINTON: Mostly women, that’s right.
And she was — she was a fierce advocate for it. It was not successful this time around. Another approach was taken. But I think everybody on both sides of the aisle knows, if there is not evidence that this other approach is working, then we should go back to Kirsten’s proposal.
Clinton’s endorsement was news to Gillibrand, a Democrat who succeeded Clinton in her New York senate seat. Gillibrand and her staff learned about it on television. “Based on Secretary Clinton’s record of standing up for human rights, we were not surprised,” said Glen Caplin, Gillibrand’s communications director.
At another point in the CNN event, she took a position that appears to put her opposite the Pentagon brass and Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of her earliest Democratic 2016 supporters: She issued her first public endorsement of a controversial plan to overhaul military sexual assault policy by removing commanders from the key decision points in the prosecution of cases.
Clinton said she supported New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in her yearlong battle to force this change through legislation — if the Pentagon can’t clean up its act soon.
“She was a fierce advocate for it,” Clinton said of Gillibrand. “It was not successful this time around. Another approach was taken. But I think everybody on both sides of the aisle knows, if there is not evidence that this other approach is working, then we should go back to Kirsten’s proposal.”
“Take it out of the chain of command?” Amanpour asked to follow-up.
June 17, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, email@example.com
*** PRESS RELEASE ***
PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER UNDERMINING RAPE SHIELD PROTECTIONS FOR VICTIMS OF RAPE IN MILITARY
Commander-in-Chief signs Executive Order Undermining Victims’ Privacy Rights; Denying access to the Draft and without Input from Public or Survivors; Protect Our Defenders Calls on President to Rescind Pentagon Led Effort and Calls on Members of Congress to Join Effort to Protect Victims
Washington DC - President Obama signed an Executive Order last Friday, June 13, that delivers a significant blow to the ongoing efforts by survivors, advocates and lawmakers to modernize the military justice system and protect victims of rape and sexual assault in the military. Without any explanation of how these changes benefit the practice of military law or protect the rights of survivors, the order substantially weakens the protections of Military Rule of Evidence 412 (MRE 412), the military’s version of the “rape shield rule.” These changes are contrary to the intent of Congress, inconsistent with established procedure in sexual assault cases, and exemplify the DoD’s failure to seriously address defects in the military justice system.
Prior to the President’s execution of the June 13th Executive Order, the Rules for Courts-Martial 405(i) (“RCM 405(i)”) prohibited admission of evidence of a victim’s prior sexual behavior. Nevertheless, the rule was interpreted by many investigating officers as permitting consideration of such evidence even though MRE 412 gives such power only to a military judge during a court-martial and not to an investigating officer at an Article 32 hearing. Victims’ advocates and attorneys had been fighting to eliminate the de facto admission of such evidence during the Article 32 preliminary hearing process.