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STATEMENT: Protect Our Defenders Responds to Army General Suspended Over Mishandling of Sexual Assault Case in Japan

Posted by POD Staff, April 23rd, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 23, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, Brian@protectourdefenders.com

*** STATEMENT ***

PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS RESPONDS TO ARMY GENERAL SUSPENDED OVER MISHANDLING OF SEXUAL ASSAULT CASE IN JAPAN

Washington DC – Today the Washington Post revealed in a front page story that Major General Michael T. Harrison Sr., the commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan was suspended in June 2013 for mishandling a case involving a victim who reported that she had been sexual assaulted by a service member. Her alleged attacker is an Army Colonel that Maj. Gen. Harrison has known for two decades. This is just one of many examples where a commander mishandles, sweeps under the rug or otherwise ignores sexual-assault cases.

Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish released the following statement:

“How many times do we have to see that the military is incapable of self policing? Over and over again top commanders seek to protect bad actors over victims. Congress’s lack of true oversight makes them complicit in these perversions of justice.

“Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Hagel said that military leaders have a responsibility to make the issue of sexual assault a priority. He said, ‘like everything in life, everyone in positions of leadership are accountable.’

“Simply saying everyone is accountable does not make it so. Only when we remove the command bias and conflict of interest from the military justice system will we achieve transparency and accountability. Countless investigative reports and scandals show that military brass continues to treat this crisis like a PR problem, while our brave men and women in uniform are suffering.

“The Harrison case is yet another example documenting the reluctance of the military to actually administer strong punishment to senior officers who fail to do their duty to protect their troops. Too often those in power are not being held accountable without pressure from the outside.

“Simply reprimanding and refusing to further promote senior officers who do not take sexual offenses seriously or even commit serious offenses themselves, is not good enough.

“The military justice system too often protects higher-ranking perpetrators. It is fundamentally a broken system. Your boss or your boss’ friend should not decide whether to prosecute a sexual assault allegation. It is un-American. As this case once again demonstrates, commanders are inherently conflicted, biased to those they know best, not professionally trained, and therefore unable to administer blind justice to colleagues with whom they have worked, often for decades. It is obvious that the current system has not and will not work well.

“The military justice system must be reformed to give independent, professionally trained military prosecutors the authority to prosecute cases without having to seek the approval of the commander of the accused perpetrator.”

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Washington Post: Army general disciplined over mishandling of sexual-assault case in Japan

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/army-general-disciplined-over-mishandling-of-sexual-assault-case-in-japan/2014/04/22/6339f268-ca2b-11e3-a75e-463587891b57_story.html

Associated Press: Documents Reveal chaotic Military Sex-Abuse Record

http://www.bigstory.ap.org/article/documents-reveal-chaotic-military-sex-abuse-record-1

Stars and Stripes: Army disqualifies 588 soldiers from ‘positions of trust’

http://www.stripes.com/news/us/army-disqualifies-588-soldiers-from-positions-of-trust-1.270136

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.

###


The Dartmouth: Go With Gillibrand

Posted by POD Staff, April 16th, 2014

The Dartmouth University Newspaper reports:

Gillibrand’s bill would place a survivor’s quest for justice in the hands of an unbiased, independent military prosecutor. Such a prosecutor would have a strong and up-to-date understanding of legal issues surrounding sexual assault, which may not be the case for military commanders. Military commanders face a fundamental conflict of interest when approaching sexual assault cases that impedes nearly all hope for justice; the MJIA would alleviate that incompatibility and give survivors the chance for justice they deserve. As a result, more survivors would feel comfortable speaking out against their assailants, and we could slowly begin to erode the culture of sexism and silence that plagues the U.S. military.

Claims that removing the prosecution of sexual assault cases from the military chain of command would weaken the military’s power or undermine its hierarchical structure are baseless. In fact, MJIA would result in a fundamentally stronger military. Survivors of sexual assault could access the resources they need to overcome trauma and continue contributing effectively to our nation’s defense. Greater accountability for perpetrators of sexual assault would disincentivize these crimes, resulting in fewer victims and a military that is mentally and physically stronger. Finally, more individuals, particularly women, who might otherwise be uncomfortable with the military’s sexual assault culture, would enlist. Meanwhile, the fundamental principles of hierarchy and authority so central to the military would go untouched; there would be a stronger system in place to prevent and punish abuses of power.

Read more here.


Washington Post: The Choice: Service members who say they were sexually assaulted face agonizing decisions about whether to speak up or stay silent

Posted by POD Staff, April 14th, 2014

This A1 feature story in Sunday’s Washington Post shows exactly why your boss should not decide whether a sexual assault is prosecuted:

She lies because she thinks she has to, because of the legal document she signed during her fourth month at Bagram air base, after she sneaked over to the hospital and asked to see the person who handles sexual assaults, after a nurse took Polaroid photos of bruises on her neck and scratches on her back, collected swabs and hair samples and put them in a brown paper bag.

After that, she was handed Defense Department Form 2910 and told she had two choices for reporting rape.

She could file an unrestricted report, in which both she and the alleged offender, who Diana said was her boss, would be named and that would launch an investigation.

Read more here.

 


Rep. Corey Gardner: Protecting sex assault victims in the military

Posted by POD Staff, April 12th, 2014

Congressman Corey Gardner (D-CO) calls on the House to pass fundamental reform to fix our broken military justice system:

This week, I announced my support for the inclusion of text in the NDAA to address these crimes in a way that respects military leadership but brings real reform to a system that is currently failing sexual assault victims.

This bipartisan text, originally proposed by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York, removes the decision to prosecute claims of sexual assault and other major military crimes from the military’s chain of command.

This would ensure that victims of sexual assault can come forward with the knowledge that he or she will receive a fair judicial process.

Reforming the military’s judicial process is not something that I take lightly.

Read more here.


Dempsey: DOD must make fixes on sexual assaults, quickly

Posted by POD Staff, April 11th, 2014

Stars and Stripes reports:

The Defense Department has limited time to show results in the effort to combat sexual assault in the ranks, the nation’s top uniformed leader said Thursday.

So far, most of the measures by which the department has begun gauging its efforts haven’t shown much progress, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said during a phone conversation with reporters and bloggers.

And if it turns out the military finally can’t handle the job, Dempsey said he’ll no longer oppose Congress taking leadership of the issue out of the military’s hands.

Read more here.


Amy Schumer Realizes Military Games Are Not Fun for Female Characters

Posted by POD Staff, April 11th, 2014

Jezebel reports:

Amy Schumer continues to wonderfully tackle sexism and general gender bullshit on her show — her newest sketch takes on the subject of rape in the armed forces via a “very realistic military game.”

In it, Amy tries to play a hyper-realistic Call of Duty-esque game as a female character, but she finds that her experience is quite different as a woman — after she’s sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier in the barracks, her gameplay consists of doing a lot of paperwork and then facing a character assassination squad at the Pentagon. Meanwhile, her IRL boyfriend (A METAPHOR FOR THE UNCARING MASSES) unhelpfully blames her and refuses to help: “That’s never happened to me; you must have pressed the wrong button. That’s not part of the game.”

The sketch is great because manages to do something so few other denizens of Comedy Central (cough, Daniel Tosh) have been capable of: it makes a rape joke that works — one that lampoons our bizarre, fucked up society for overlooking and tacitly condoning a sexual assault epidemic and not the victims of those assaults. A+.

Read more here.


USA Today: Army sheds (a little) light on sexual assault

Posted by POD Staff, April 10th, 2014

USA Today reports:

A funny thing happened in the Senate this week:

The cat that had the Army’s tongue on sexual assault in its ranks loosened its grip.

For a moment, and not entirely.

A three-star general discussed for the first time in public information about soldiers disqualified from “positions of trust.” It’s some of the same data that the Army recently required USA TODAY to request under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Read more here.


Military Rape: Cover-Ups And Conflicts Of Interest

Posted by POD Staff, April 10th, 2014

Article 3 reports:

Senior Army Officer, Brigadier General Jeremy A. Sinclair, was essentially slapped on the wrist after pleading guilty to massively reduced charges in what was perhaps the military’s most closely watched sexual assault case. The general’s sentence was announced on March 20th.

In exchange for pleading guilty to the abridged charges, which included disobeying a commander’s order and misuse of a government charge card, the prosecutors agreed to dismiss far more serious charges.

The charges being dropped involve accusations that he forced a female captain, who served as his Arabic-speaking adviser in the Army, to perform oral sex and even threatened to kill her family. According to the accuser, he also groped her on an airplane in plain view of other Army soldiers.

Read more here.


[VIDEO] Comedy Central: A Very Realistic Military Game

Posted by POD Staff, April 9th, 2014

From Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer:

Amy discovers that her boyfriend’s war game unfolds very differently when the player chooses a female character.


The Hill: Chain of Command

Posted by POD Staff, April 8th, 2014

Jessica a certified sexual violence advocate for Essex County, N.J. and women’s rights activist writes for the Hill:

Every 21 minutes another member of the U.S. military is sexually assaulted according to the DOD’s 2012 report. Within the time most people take a shower or cook spaghetti, someone who is in the Armed Forces is being forced into a sexual act against their will. How many minutes need to pass before our government is willing to do something?

It has been almost one month since Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) did not pass in the Senate. One month or about 2,100 sexual assaults. On March 6th, 2014, the U.S. Senate had an opportunity to change the way the military handles sexual assault cases, but the Senate was just five votes shy of passing the MJIA. Why? Chain of command.

What does chain of command have to do with rape? Well, since a majority of military sexual assault perpetrators are within the survivors’ chain of command or at least friends with the perpetrator, it has everything to do with it. The men and women who protect us are not protected themselves. The military let’s the people in the chain of command make the decision about whether or not to prosecute or court martial the perpetrator…with NO legal background. The Commanding Officer can IGNORE a legal prosecutor’s recommendations for going forward with and legal or judicial actions. The MJIA could have stripped the CO’s of this power but too many Senator’s are afraid that this action will affect the way the chain of command operates which is a sacred cow in the military. Apparently these Senators made the decision without the knowledge that several of our NATO allies have already made the change that Gillibrand is proposing…without ANY issues or loss of power for the Commanding Officer. Why is the U.S. so far behind change similar to what Great Britain, Canada, Australia, or Israel already implemented?

Read more.


Sex-offender registry among top Army Family Action Plan issues

Posted by POD Staff, April 8th, 2014

The Army News Service reports:

While the Army is aware of the status of every Soldier convicted of a sex offense, no such searchable database exists that identifies convicted sex-offender family members and Army civilians that may live and work on Army installations.

An individual stationed in Baumholder, Germany, in 2005, wondered why none existed, and submitted an issue to the garrison Army Family Action Plan conference. The issue sought to establish a convicted sex-offender registry for anyone holding a Defense Department identification card. The status of resolving the issue was reviewed by the AFAP General Officer Steering Committee, or AFAP GOSC, which met Feb. 19, at the Pentagon Conference Center.

One person can make the Army stronger, said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John F. Campbell, who chairs the AFAP GOSC, which meets twice a year to discuss issues generated by Soldiers, Army civilians, retirees, survivors, and their family members.

Read more here.


Sex-offender registry among top Army Family Action Plan issues

Posted by POD Staff, April 7th, 2014

The Army Service News reports:

While the Army is aware of the status of every Soldier convicted of a sex offense, no such searchable database exists that identifies convicted sex-offender family members and Army civilians that may live and work on Army installations.

An individual stationed in Baumholder, Germany, in 2005, wondered why none existed, and submitted an issue to the garrison Army Family Action Plan conference. The issue sought to establish a convicted sex-offender registry for anyone holding a Defense Department identification card. The status of resolving the issue was reviewed by the AFAP General Officer Steering Committee, or AFAP GOSC, which met Feb. 19, at the Pentagon Conference Center.

One person can make the Army stronger, said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John F. Campbell, who chairs the AFAP GOSC, which meets twice a year to discuss issues generated by Soldiers, Army civilians, retirees, survivors, and their family members.

Read more here.


USA Today: Be aware but not informed about military sexual assault

Posted by POD Staff, April 7th, 2014

Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) is featured in this article from USA Today:

“These soldiers held positions of trust and were disqualified for a reason but we still don’t know why,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “We know some committed sexual assault and child abuse and that others were busted for driving drunk but we don’t know if they were discharged, retrained or simply transferred

“Where are they? What happened? Until the public and the Congress gets all the facts it’s hard to know whether the Army is truly making great strides to clean up its toxic culture,” Speier said.

Read more here.


San Antonio Express-News wins community service prize for its coverage of sexual assault in the military

Posted by POD Staff, April 6th, 2014

The San-Antonio Express-News reports:

The San Antonio Express-News won first place in community service Sunday at the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors Convention for the newspaper’s in-depth coverage of sexual assaults in the military.

In the same journalism contest, the Headliners Foundation of Texas also awarded investigative reporter Karisa King a Star Reporter of the Year Award for her work in “Twice Betrayed,” a seven-month project that revealed how the military rarely punished troops accused of sexual assault — but penalized victims.

Express-News art director Adrian Alvarez also won a Star Designer of the Year Award for his page designs of “Twice Betrayed” and other news stories.

“Series like ‘Twice Betrayed’ exemplify our commitment to public-interest journalism,” Express-News Editor Mike Leary said. “We’re proud of receiving recognition for the fine work our staff does.”

Read more here.


One woman’s story of sexual assault in the military

Posted by POD Staff, April 6th, 2014

Arkansas Online reports:

Just barely out of high school, Melissa Davis joined the Army when she turned 18 in 1986.

Only in her second phase of military training, just three months past her 18th birthday, she said she was raped by a male sergeant.

Now 45, Davis, who lives in Fairfield Bay, is finally talking about the assault and how she has suffered silently for many years.

“I will be silenced no more,” she said.

Writing under the pen name Stormie Dunn, Davis tells her story as a victim of military sexual trauma in the book Silenced No More: The Courage of a Soldier — Life After Military Sexual Trauma.

Read more here.


Two Senators, Two Different Lessons from a General’s Sexual Assault Case

Posted by POD Staff, April 4th, 2014

The Wire reports:

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill have been at war over how the military should handle sexual assault since last year. Both commented Thursday on the recently resolved case against Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, but his example doesn’t bolster either of their positions about reform.

Sinclair was sentenced in March to a $20,000 fine for engaging in an adulterous relationship with his accuser and abusing a government credit card. He was originally charged with sexual assault, and his case played out under a microscope while Gillibrand and McCaskill debated reform in Congress. Because a judge ruled that Sinclair’s court-martial was unduly influenced by the Pentagon, Sinclair was allowed to take a plea bargain that involved dropping the sexual assault charges. Gillibrand calls this justice not served. McCaskill sees the bright side.

Read more here.


[VIDEO] Gillibrand: Battle ahead over military sexual assault

Posted by POD Staff, April 3rd, 2014

USA Today reporter Susan Page speaks with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) about the epidemic of military sexual assault:

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a rising star in the Democratic Party, has led the effort to remove sexual assault cases from the U.S. military chain of command. Last month, she won support from 55 senators, a majority but short of the 60 needed to move forward. On USA TODAY’s Capital Download, she discusses that campaign and her efforts to convince more women to run for office — including Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Gillibrand succeeded in the Senate. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Read and watch more here.


New military program to protect victims sees early success

Posted by POD Staff, April 2nd, 2014

Protect Our Defenders Policy and Program Director Miranda Petersen is featured in this article from MSNBC:

Miranda Peterson, policy and program director of Protect Our Defenders, also sees progress. But she says she has heard from SVCs – as the lawyers in the program are referred to – that there has been resistance to including them in the process. “We definitely support the program all the way and recognize there’s a lot of potential there,” she told msnbc.

Of course, improving the way survivors navigate the aftermath of being assaulted is only one part of reducing the number of sexual assaults. Until the military climate as a whole changes, SVCs could face a backlash from commanders and prosecutors.

“There’s definitely been some pushback on them. They’re seen as troublemakers,” Peterson said. Protect Our Defenders had heard reports from SVCs of being excluded from hearings and being denied access to crucial information. If the role is not respected, victims still have to deal with a hostile system. “Everyone agrees that this is needed for victims, and it’s a great program when it works. Sometimes it does work, but not if you’re denying SVCs the materials and resources they need to do their job,” Peterson said.

Read more here.


Maine’s Ruth Moore settles civil rights suit against her former Vermont school district

Posted by POD Staff, April 2nd, 2014

Bangor Daily News reports:

When Ruth Moore was a teenage Navy sailor a quarter-century ago, she was raped twice by her immediate supervisor while stationed at a base on the Azores.

Though she was incorrectly diagnosed with a mental health disorder and discharged from the Navy, Moore never gave up on fighting for justice. She worked for 20 years to receive veterans benefits. She also gave her name to the Ruth Moore Act, a bill aimed at making it easier for veterans who survive military sexual assault to get benefits. The U.S. House passed the bill last June.

And Moore is continuing to fight for what’s fair, according to her attorney, Cynthia Dill of Portland. This week, Moore settled a five-year-old civil rights claim against a Vermont school district that began, Dill said, when the Milbridge woman was working as a special education teacher in the community of Danville.

Read more here.


Rep. Tulsi Gabbard named to Armed Services Committee

Posted by POD Staff, April 2nd, 2014

The Army Times reports:

Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was named to the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, increasing the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on the military oversight panel to eight.

Gabbard, who deployed to Iraq with the Hawaii National Guard in 2005-2006, is one of only two female combat veterans in Congress. The other, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., already serves on the committee.

The appointment was made by the the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee to fill a vacancy on the panel.

In a statement, Gabbard welcomed the committee assignment as a chance to “continue my bipartisan efforts to reform our military justice system in order to end the epidemic of military sexual assault.” That issue has already divided Democrats in the Senate, and is expected to be a key point of the annual defense authorization bill debate.

Read more here.


Service dog lends comfort to soldiers who suffered sexual assault

Posted by POD Staff, April 2nd, 2014

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

The soldier was hysterical and couldn’t talk about the sexual assault.

Second Lt. Amber Garfoot listened as the woman instead talked about a dog she had known as a child. Also listening to the soldier who had stopped at the Wisconsin National Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was Falcon, a black Labrador retriever, who sat at her feet.

“We left the meeting that day without information (about the assault) — she wasn’t ready to talk yet,” Garfoot said Tuesday at an event introducing Falcon at National Guard headquarters in Madison. “But she later called and asked for a meeting with me and Falcon.”

Since the PTSD service dog started his tour of duty with the Wisconsin National Guard last fall, the response has been overwhelming. A growing number of people seem to feel more comfortable about visiting the office to talk about sexual assault and domestic violence.

Read more here.


Posted by POD Staff, April 2nd, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 2, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330Brian@protectourdefenders.com

*** MEDIA ADVISORY ***

PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS ADVOCACY COMMITTEE MEMBER TO DELIVER KEYNOTE AT INAUGURAL GEORGIA WOMEN VETERANS CONFERENCE 

Veteran and survivor BriGette McCoy has appeared on CNN and testified before Congress calling for fundamental reform to the military justice system

Washington DC – On Friday April 4th, Veteran BriGette McCoy, Founder and CEO of Women Veteran Social Justice will deliver the keynote address at the organization’s inaugural conference, with the goal of connecting women veterans in Georgia and across the country. BriGette also serves as a Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee Member, and appeared in the documentary film,Service: When Women Come Marching Home. Last year she testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on sexual assaults in the military.

BriGette has shared her personal story of sexual assault while serving in the Army on multiple occasions. She is a regular contributor on CNN and on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper earlier this month she expressed the betrayal she felt after Senator Claire McCaskill led an effort to block fundamental reform in the Senate.

Read Full Post…


Jessica Hinves: For Thee I Sing

Posted by POD Staff, April 1st, 2014

Protect Our Defenders member Jessica Hinves wrote an incredible essay for the hypothetical review about sexual assault in the military. Jessica was also featured in the Oscar nominated documentary, The Invisible War.

My pastor has talked to me about forgiveness. Everyone who has been a victim should have the chance to go somewhere where they do talk about that. The spiritual aspect of this experience is important; we need a way to provide attention to the core and essence of a person, whether they are an atheist or a believer from any religion. People are shy and hesitant to talk about spirituality because it becomes an issue of what role does God have in the military. But spirituality does not need to be organized religion; it can be about resilience, which is a characteristic every solider needs.

I think of spiritual strength as physical, mental and emotional. We can do better with giving meaning to these concepts; now, it’s become a PowerPoint presentation. In addition to implementing command accountability and communication – access to information about our cases, resources, rights – cultural change can happen through programs that empower both men and women so we’re not in a place where the question of women being in combat is seen as a threat by many.

There’s a museum in California that I visited with inspiring images of Rosie the Riveter. We’re still fighting for acknowledgement that we do belong in the military – and when we make progress in the military, I hope that carries over into society. I’ve discovered a protectorate, a sisterhood in this work, of other women and also men who are allies, and that sustains me. After everything, I am still an optimist. We have a chance for the military to be a change agent that, if it evolves, can be a catalyst and model for society to empower women and address sexual assault.

Read Jessica’s entire piece here.


Hagel Releases Video Message In Observance Of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Posted by POD Staff, April 1st, 2014

Talk Radio News Service reports:

In observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey released a video message to DoD personnel Tuesday warning that “sexual assault is one of the worst crimes a person can commit.”

“It destroys the bonds of trust and confidence that lie at the very heart of our military. We must keep doing whatever it takes to eradicate it,” Hagel said.

The minute and a half video included both men addressing the issue of sexual assault, with Dempsey adding “we must stay committed to keeping our honor clean. We must strengthen our bonds of trust with each other and with the American people.”

Read more here.


West Point leader vows to address sexual assault

Posted by POD Staff, April 1st, 2014

The Journal News reports:

Top Army officials on Monday said they were committed to ending sexual assault and harassment following a series of scandals at the nation’s oldest military academy.

Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., who took over as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point last July, told the members of an oversight board new efforts were underway to develop character and prevent future incidents.

“My focus is to change the culture,” Caslen told West Point’s Board of Visitors, whose 15 members, which include Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, advise the president on issues ranging from finances to academics to discipline at West Point.

Read more here.


Mustache March ends, but controversy lingers

Posted by POD Staff, March 31st, 2014

The Air Force Times reports:

Whether you participated in Mustache March with your unit or under Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s Air Force-wide challenge, the month has ended and your razors await.

In Welsh’s travels to various bases throughout the month, he found many embracing the activity, from uniformed airmen, to pregnant spouses with mustaches painted on their stomachs, to airmen who had written songs about Mustache March.

“That’s the whole point, gang, reminding ourselves we can have a little fun while we accomplish the mission,” Welsh wrote on his official Facebook page, where he also posted photos sent to him of airmen — and others — with mustaches real and fake. Welsh plans to announce the winners, nominated by major commands, via social media on Tuesday or Wednesday, said Megan Schafer, his communications adviser.

Read more here.

 


USA Today: Doubts cloud handling of military sex assaults: Your Say

Posted by POD Staff, March 30th, 2014

USA Today reports:

Capitalizing on positions of power to extort sexual favors is an abuse that must be dealt with outside the military chain of command. All branches, Army, Navy and Air Force, have been implicated with such scandals.

The U.S. military is much like the Roman Catholic Church and other denominations that attempt to protect the institution at the expense of the individual. The judgment in Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair’s case, a $20,000 fine and no jail time, is nowhere near a penalty commensurate with the alleged crime.

Sinclair is a criminal. He pleaded guilty to adultery, a crime in the military. He violated his military oath, diminished the integrity of his command and shamed the Army. Violating trust must involve more severe penalties. He should be mustered out with a dishonorable discharge and no pension.

Read more here.


AP: Sex assault victims find help navigating military justice system

Posted by POD Staff, March 30th, 2014

The Associated Press reports:

As an Army general faced court-martial for sexual assault this month, a military lawyer sat each day in the front row of the gallery, a few feet behind the prosecutors.

Unlike lawyers trying to win a criminal conviction against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, Capt. Cassie L. Fowler’s sole mission was to protect the woman at the center of the case — a captain who said her commander twice forced her to perform oral sex and threatened to kill her if she told anyone about their three-year affair.

Known as a special victims counsel, or SVC for short, Fowler is part of a program started by the Pentagon last year after long-standing complaints that the military has too often treated those reporting rapes and sexual assaults as if they were the ones who did something wrong.

Read more here.


Cokie and Steve Roberts: Senior officers protective association

Posted by POD Staff, March 27th, 2014

Attorney Susan Burke is mentioned in this column from Cokie and Steve Roberts:

The day that the Sinclair verdict came down, a member of the Navy football team, Joshua Tate, was acquitted on charges of raping a fellow midshipman during a drunken party near Annapolis. The pretrial phase of that case contained a particularly obscene episode when lawyers for the player repeatedly questioned the woman about her preferences in underwear and sex acts.

Susan Burke, an attorney for the accuser, said that her client was “twice victimized: first by her attacker and then by the failed investigation and prosecution of this case.”

Yes, the military has made some progress in confronting the appalling level of sexual violence rampant in its ranks. And Congress has passed some useful reforms. But these two cases show how deep the problem runs, and how much the brass still has to learn.

Read more here.


Ex-recruits say Lackland trainer abused them

Posted by POD Staff, March 27th, 2014

The San Antonio Express-News reports:

Defense attorneys have said former Air Force instructor Staff Sgt. Annamarie Ellis was hard on her recruits but got results.

But trainees from Ellis’ flights who took the stand Wednesday in a trial that could land her in prison saw it differently.

They described her as foul-mouthed, combative, controlling and abusive. Instead of breaking them down and turning them into airmen as she was charged to do, they said, Ellis demoralized them.

Read more here.

 


My Turn: On sexual assault, Ayotte’s measure ineffective

Posted by POD Staff, March 26th, 2014

Concord resident Jeanne Cusson takes on Senator Kelly Ayotte’s position on military sexual assault reform:

Since she is given top billing in the article, Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s co-sponsoring a bill on sexual assault in the military is clearly seen as the greatest accomplishment of our representatives in this legislative session. I respectfully disagree.

Ayotte worked to block a bill that would have finally removed prosecution for sexual assault from the military chain of command. The “Military Justice Improvement Act” was sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Fifty-five senators, including New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, voted to move this bill forward. Forty-five senators, including Ayotte, voted against it. A majority vote, however, does not work in the U.S. Senate, since 60 votes are needed to avoid a filibuster.

The Senate therefore passed the McCaskill-Ayotte-Fisher bill, since it had to be seen doing something about the appalling number of sexual assault incidents in the military.

Read more here.


WSJ: Gen. Dempsey Says Sexual Assault Threatens Military’s Bedrock

Posted by POD Staff, March 26th, 2014

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy Wednesday that sexual assault threatens to erode the trust that is the foundation of the military.

The military for the past two years has been battling rising reports of sexual assault, while Congress has criticized the Pentagon for not doing enough to prevent the crime. A proposal by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) to strip commanders of the power to oversee sexual-assault prosecutions narrowly failed in the Senate recently.

But the recent acquittal of a former Naval academy midshipman charged with sexual assault and a plea deal to lesser charges in a case involving an Army general accused of rape has renewed calls for a broad overhaul of military justice.

Read more here.


Iowa House Clears Military Sexual Assault Bill

Posted by POD Staff, March 26th, 2014

The Associated Press reports:

An effort to toughen laws against sexual assaults in state military forces and to hold the Iowa National Guard accountable for such abuses has won the Iowa House’s support.

The House unanimously voted Tuesday in favor of the measure, which would ensure that victims are aware of their right to report assaults and require the Guard to comply with certain reporting standards. It now returns to the Senate for final consideration.

The bill would require the Iowa National Guard to file a report annually to the Legislature detailing sexual abuse allegations. It would also make it illegal for a commander to interfere in a victim’s reporting process.

Read more here.


Convicted Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair Could Still Walk Away with a Big Pension

Posted by POD Staff, March 26th, 2014

The Wire reports:

Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair was reprimanded and sentenced last week to pay a $20,000 fine for carrying on an adulterous affair with a female captain, having improper relationships with two other women, and abusing a government credit card. The female captain maintains he sexually assaulted her, but those charges were dropped as part of a plea bargain. It was assumed that Sinclair would have to retire at a lower rank because of his indiscretions, but USA Today reports on Tuesday that may not be the case. At stake is $832,000 in retirement benefits.

Sinclair’s lawyer, Richard Scheff, is pushing the Army to let Sinclair retire as a general, not a lieutenant colonel. Scheff acknowledges the ask is a big one, as it’s hard to argue Sinclair “served honorably” while he was a general. Sinclair’s affair with the captain began while he was a lieutenant colonel. Typically, the “grade determination” review board will allow offending officers to retire at the last rank they served “satisfactorily,” which would not be a general in Sinclair’s case. But this kind of panel is somewhat arcane and rarely used, so even military law experts can’t predict what decision they’ll reach. Sinclair could luck out.

Read more here.


[VIDEO] Jimmy Carter Explains Why Military Sexual Assault Is So Difficult To Combat

Posted by POD Staff, March 25th, 2014

Former President Jimmy Carter appears on HuffPost Live:

Former President Jimmy Carter opened up about the military’s sexual assault problem on Tuesday, explaining why it’s so difficult to combat.

In an interview with HuffPost Live, Carter drew upon his own Navy experience, discussing why commanding officers are “very reluctant” to have such serious incidents reported. He added that the emotional toll for the victim in going public with all the details makes for a “very difficult” environment to see a conviction.

“The laws and the interpretations of the laws, even in our own great country, are adverse to recognizing the problem and doing something about it,” Carter admitted.

Watch the interview here.


Kirsten Gillibrand: ‘House of Cards’ different from reality

Posted by POD Staff, March 25th, 2014

Politico reports:

The scheming, backroom dealing world of Netflix’s “House of Cards” is far from the world politicians experience in Washington, at least according to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Speaking Tuesday at POLITICO’s Women Rule event, “How Women Run: Power, Perception and Reality,” Gillibrand said her colleagues are “much much nicer” than those in the Netflix drama that drove viewers to binge-watching.

“Most of the women in the series are portrayed as quite cold and quite calculating,” Gillibrand said. “In my experience, I adore the female colleagues I have in the Senate. Women are so good at working together, finding common ground, getting things done … Most women come to public service because they want to make a difference.”

Read more here.


AP: Army head to decide rank of disgraced general

Posted by POD Staff, March 25th, 2014

The Associated Press reports:

The secretary of the Army said Tuesday he will have the final say on whether a disgraced brigadier general at the center of a sexual misconduct case retires at a lower rank with sharply reduced retirement pay.

Facing outraged House Democrats, John McHugh said the case of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair remains open a week after he was spared prison and sentenced to a reprimand and a $20,000 fine.

“The process is still ongoing. I have to make final certifications about rank and retirement,” McHugh told the Armed Services Committee.

The article also mentioned Former President Jimmy Carter’s comments regarding military sexual assault on the Late Show with David Letterman:

Former President Jimmy Carter, who served in the Navy, suggested one way to address the issue of sexual assault would be to take the authority away from commanders.

“In the military the first thing you could do is to remove from the commanding officers the authority about whether a rapist will be tried or not,” Carter said in an interview Monday night on CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman.”

“I was a submarine officer. I was qualified to command submarines. And it’s almost impossible for commanding officers to bring to justice a rapist, because it reflects adversely on his capability as a military commander if sexual abuse is taking place in his company or his battalion.”

Read more here.


Former President Jimmy Carter on Senator McCaskill reforms: “I thought it was not adequate”

Posted by POD Staff, March 25th, 2014

Former President Jimmy Carter joined David Letterman on March 24th, 2014 and voiced his support for an independent and impartial justice system for our men and women in uniform. He shared his disappointment in the Sen. McCaskill led filibuster against the Military Justice Improvement Act and reflected on how not much has changed since the Tailhook scandal.

Fast forward to 15:54 for President Carter’s remarks on the military sexual assault epidemic and how to begin to resolve it.
When asked about how to tackle the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, President Carter said,
“There are a number of things that can be done. For instance, in the military the first thing you could do is to remove from the commanding officers the authority about whether a rapist will be tried or not.”
When asked about Sen. McCaskill’s reforms that were recently passed by the Senate.
“I thought it was not adequate, because I’ve been in the Navy. I was a submarine officer. I was qualified to command submarines. And it’s almost impossible for commanding officers to bring to justice a rapist, because it affects adversely on his capability as a military commander if sexual abuse is taking place in his company or his battalion.”

Rob Karsch: Reed, Whitehouse make military sexual assault more likely

Posted by POD Staff, March 24th, 2014

Rob Karsch is a former U.S. Army sergeant and a former lieutenant with the Bristol Police Department. He wrote an op-ed for the Providence Journal asking his Senators for an explanation for why they chose not to support fundamental reform.

As a Rhode Islander, I am seriously disappointed that Senators Whitehouse and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) voted against this commonsense reform. Having served as a police commander under Mr. Whitehouse during his term as Rhode Island attorney general, I would have expected that he would understand why this fix is long overdue.

As I’m sure Mr. Whitehouse saw while serving as attorney general, it is unreasonable for individuals in an organization to police their own. We all would balk at the idea of the Rhode Island State Police or a local police department determining whether or not to prosecute fellow officers for criminal activity without the accountability of an outside agency. Local police departments have long relied on the State Police in these instances, and the State Police has relied on either the attorney general’s office or even the Federal Bureau of Investigation in similar instances.

Read more here.


Editorial: Another case shows need for military justice change

Posted by POD Staff, March 24th, 2014

The San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board writes:

The case of Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, the accused in one of the most high-profile military sexual assault cases in recent times, illustrated the need to remove commanders from the decision on whether to prosecute such cases.

He was allowed to plead to lesser charges. Conviction on the more severe charges, now dropped, could have earned him a life sentence. Among these charges were that he forced a captain to perform oral sex and threatened to kill her and her family if she disclosed the relationship. The two had an affair, which went horribly awry.

It’s tempting to see this as a case in which the punishment does not fit the crime — and there is a case to be made for that after his verdict Thursday for the remaining charges, a $20,000 fine and no jail time. He gets to keep his pension.

Read more here.


Lawyer: General may retire at current rank despite plea

Posted by POD Staff, March 24th, 2014

USA Today reports:

The attorney for Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, who pleaded guilty last week to adultery and having inappropriate relationships with several women, said it is possible that his client could still retire as a general.

In a highly charged case, Sinclair was fined $20,000 and reprimanded, but he avoided prison time. Critics, such as Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., called the sentence a “mockery.”

The sentence left open an important question. At what rank will Sinclair, 51, be allowed to retire?

Read more here.

 


Protect Our Defenders 2014 (1st Quarter) Media Report

Posted by POD Staff, March 24th, 2014

Protect Our Defenders (POD) has hit the ground running in 2014. We have continued to reinforce our presence as the most vocal and active human rights organization for victims of rape and sexual assault in the military. We have done this through extensive media outreach, mobilizing our extensive survivor community, and advocating for fundamental reform in our nation’s capital, and throughout the country.

Protect Our Defenders or our members have been featured in over 600 articles and broadcast stories. These include pieces in all the major news outlets, The National Journal, New York Times, Wash Post, Vogue Magazine, ABC News World News Tonight, CBS News, CNN and many others. The issue has also become part of pop culture, as it was recently one of the main story lines in the hit TV show, House of Cards.

We continue to work with the media to break investigative reports that keep the issue of military sexual assault in the headlines and we influence public opinion by working closely with editorial boards.

Read Full Post…


Editorial: Our military justice system needs more reform

Posted by POD Staff, March 24th, 2014

The Washington Post Editorial Board writes:

Whether the right decisions were rendered last week in the military’s two high-profile cases of sexual assault is a matter of some dispute. Given the shape of the cases before them, we tend to think the judges in both probably made the right calls. But the process along the way was so flawed that it’s hard to have any confidence that justice was done.

The cases have renewed attention on the need to change a military justice system that is susceptible to letting factors other than the evidence influence which sexual assault cases are brought to trial. One involved Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, reprimanded for mistreating an Army captain with whom he had an affair; the other, Midshipman Joshua Tate, a former Naval Academy football player acquitted of sexual assault. Both show why trained, independent prosecutors, not commanding officers with competing concerns, should be in charge of deciding which cases come to trial. Legislation championed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would have brought about this critical reform got 55 votes in the Senate this month, a clear majority but unfortunately five short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

Read more here.


Starbucks CEO To Donate $30 Million To Support PTSD Research For Veterans

Posted by POD Staff, March 24th, 2014

The Huffington Post reports:

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is making a large donation to help U.S. veterans.

Schultz spoke to CBS Evening News on Wednesday and announced his plan to allocate most of the $30 million donation toward researching solutions to brain trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD affects between 11 and 20 percent of military members who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Read more here.


Could Congress have changed the outcome of two high profile cases of military sexual assault? Maybe.

Posted by POD Staff, March 24th, 2014

The Washington Post reports:

A few months ago Congress approved changes to how the military handles cases of assault and rape in the ranks. The road taken — and the one it’s rejected — might have had real world implications in two high profile military sexual assault cases resolved in the past week.

Both cases played out in military courtrooms while Capitol Hill was locked in a months-long debate over whether to change how the Defense Department investigates and prosecutes similar cases. In December, Congress passed sweeping changes to how military officials will handle assault and rape cases in the future. And as the cases neared their conclusion, the Senate approved more changes pushed for by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) that would grant protections to victims and extend current protections to students at military academies. But senators also rejected a separate plan by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would have stripped military commanders of the power to decide how to handle assault and rape cases, and hand over such powers to professional prosecutors.

Read more here.


Two Gitmo guards face sex-assault trials in S.A

Posted by POD Staff, March 22nd, 2014

The San Antonio Express-News reports:

Two soldiers who worked as guards at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba will go on trial next month in San Antonio on charges of sexually abusing women under their command.

First Sgt. Richard A. Smith faces life in prison for raping one woman while Sgt. Stevontae Lacefield is accused of sexually assaulting a specialist.

They are accused of misconduct with other subordinates — soldiers they were duty-bound to protect.

Read more here.


Editorial: Military sex-assault case shows need for far-reaching reforms

Posted by POD Staff, March 22nd, 2014

The Boston Globe Editorial Board writes:

Two weeks ago, the Senate blocked legislation championed by Kirsten Gillibrand to overhaul the broken process of rooting out sexual assault in the military. The New York Democrat’s bill would have taken away commanding officers’ power to decide when to prosecute, entrusting that authority instead to neutral military lawyers outside the chain of command. Gillibrand won a bipartisan 55-45 majority but was short of the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. The Senate then unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Missouri’s Claire McCaskill that made some good reforms — most notably in eliminating the “good soldier defense,” in which defendants invoke exemplary service records to suggest they could not have possibly committed sexual assault. But the Senate bill still leaves commanding officers with too much influence over these cases. The House should do better.

Read more here.


[VIDEO] MSNBC: Verdicts upset military sex assault victims

Posted by POD Staff, March 21st, 2014

Attorney Susan Burke is featured in this MSNBC report:

Learn more here.


National Journal: Military Sexual-Assault Verdicts Revive Debate on Hill

Posted by POD Staff, March 21st, 2014

Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish is featured in this National Journal article:

And Gillibrand said the Sinclair decision underlines why her legislation is needed.

“It’s not only the right thing to do for our men and women in uniform, but would also mitigate issues of undue command influence that we have seen in many trials over the last year,” she said.

Nancy Parrish, the president of Protect Our Defenders, backed the senator’s efforts, calling the Sinclair case “a clear example of why nine out of 10 sexual-assault victims never report their attacks.… This case demonstrates how high-ranking bad, abusive, and even unlawful behavior is tolerated. The level of tolerance is too often dictated by the number of stars you have on your shoulders.”

Read more here.


STATEMENT: Protect Our Defenders Responds to Verdict Against Naval Academy Midshipman Accused of Sexual Assault

Posted by POD Staff, March 20th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 20, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, Brian@protectourdefenders.com

*** STATEMENT ***

PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS RESPONDS TO VERDICT AGAINST NAVAL ACADEMY MIDSHIPMAN ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ASSAULT

Washington DC – Today a military judge found a former United States Naval Academy football player not guilty on sexual assault charges. He and two other students had been accused of sexual assaulting a female midshipman at an off-campus football party in 2012. The midshipman was the only one to be court-martialed and charges against the other two were dropped.

Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish released the following statement:

“The outcome of today’s case is a painful reminder of what so many victims of military sexual assault continue to face—a system of justice that is fundamentally lacking in objectivity, often arbitrary and chaotic and too often plagued by inherent conflict, personal bias and a disregard for the victims.

“From the very beginning, the Naval Academy chose to put the reputations of the Academy and its football program above the interests of prosecuting rape and protecting victims.

“The midshipman in this case has been repeatedly subjected to unprofessional and often abusive treatment by the military—from a botched NCIS investigation, to being subjected to nearly 30 hours of questioning at a pre-trial hearing, to the release of her confidential communications with her therapist in violation of her privacy rights. This case has highlighted some of the worst failings of the military justice system, and while we are devastated for the victim, we know that her suffering will not be in vain. It is now as clear as ever that the current system is broken, and we will continue to fight to ensure that young women like this victim, who volunteer to serve our country, are given the same access to justice as the civilians they pledge to protect.”

Attorney Susan Burke released the following statement:

“This case reflects that the military justice system remains badly broken. Like so many survivors of sex crimes in the military, our client was twice victimized: first by her attacker and then by the failed investigation and prosecution of this case. The military’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy once again was applied to a crime victim, and not to the perpetrators. Justice did not prevail in this case, but we are proud of our client’s extraordinary strength, courage, and perseverance in the face of incredible abuse she endured before and during the trial. She is understandably disappointed today, but hopes legitimate reforms of the military justice system will occur because of her case and those of other survivors.”

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Associated Press: Midshipman in Naval Academy Sex Case Not Guilty

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/woman-naval-academy-sex-assault-case-testifies-22970811

NBC News: Ex-Naval Academy Football Player Found Not Guilty of Sex Assault

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/crime-courts/ex-naval-academy-football-player-found-not-guilty-sex-assault-n57821

Reuters: U.S. Naval Academy midshipman not guilty in sex assault case

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/20/us-usa-military-sexualassault-idUSBREA2J1F520140320

Washington Post: Lawsuit: Naval Academy head should excuse self from court-martial decision in sex assault case

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/lawsuit-naval-academy-head-should-excuse-self-from-court-martial-decision-in-sex-assault-case/2013/09/05/10ce8e06-1646-11e3-961c-f22d3aaf19ab_story.html

MSNBC: Naval Academy sexual assault hearing underscores flaws in system

http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/09/04/naval-academy-sexual-assault-hearing-underscores-flaws-in-system/

MSNBC: Naval Academy sex-assault accuser seeks break in testimony, citing exhaustion

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/31/20270612-naval-academy-sex-assault-accuser-seeks-break-in-testimony-citing-exhaustion?lite

 

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. 

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