Protect Our Defenders News Blog

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

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

Posted by POD Staff, October 9th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

*** MEDIA ADVISORY ***

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

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

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

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

Posted by POD Staff, October 1st, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

*** STATEMENT *** 

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by POD Staff, September 25th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

*** STATEMENT *** 

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by POD Staff, September 22nd, 2014

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

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

Critics says it’s not enough.

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

Read more here.

 


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

Posted by POD Staff, September 17th, 2014

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

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

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

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

Read more here.


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

Posted by POD Staff, September 17th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

*** PRESS RELEASE ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by POD Staff, September 16th, 2014

By Nancy Parrish, President, Protect Our Defenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Posted by POD Staff, September 12th, 2014

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

More updates:

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

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


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

Posted by POD Staff, September 9th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

*** STATEMENT *** 

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

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

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

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

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GQ: “Son, Men Don’t Get Raped”

Posted by POD Staff, September 9th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full investigative report here.


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

Posted by POD Staff, September 9th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

*** STATEMENT ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by POD Staff, September 5th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

*** STATEMENT ***

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

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

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

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

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

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[VIDEO] CA Military Sexual Assault Bill Becomes Law

Posted by POD Staff, August 25th, 2014

NBC Bay Area reports:

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

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

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

Read more here.


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

Posted by POD Staff, August 21st, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

*** PRESS RELEASE ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sex-assault cases in California military shifting jurisdictions

Posted by POD Staff, August 21st, 2014

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

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

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

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

Read more here.


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

Posted by POD Staff, August 20th, 2014

The New York Times reports:

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

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

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

Read more here.


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

Posted by POD Staff, August 18th, 2014

The New York Observer reports:

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

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

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

Read more here.

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

 


Colorado lawmakers back inquiry into Air Force Academy athletics

Posted by POD Staff, August 5th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more here.


Bill aims to strengthen forensic training in sexual assault cases

Posted by POD Staff, July 30th, 2014

The Military Times reports:

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

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

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

Read more here.


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

Posted by POD Staff, July 29th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by POD Staff, July 29th, 2014

Stars and Stripes reports:

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

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

Read more here.


A Sailor, a Survivor and a Victim’s Advocate

Posted by POD Staff, July 28th, 2014

The Daily Press reports:

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

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

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

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

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

Read more here.


More Military Sex Assault Reports a Positive Sign?

Posted by POD Staff, July 28th, 2014

The Daily Press reports:

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

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

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

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

Read more here.


Military Sexual Assault Victims Cannot Sue for Damages

Posted by POD Staff, July 25th, 2014

Care2 reports:

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

It was then that Galla’s nightmare really began.

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

Read more here.


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

Posted by POD Staff, July 25th, 2014

The Huffington Post reports:

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

Read more here.


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

Posted by POD Staff, July 24th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warmly,

Paula Coughlin
Board of Directors, Protect Our Defenders

Nancy Parrish
Founder and President, Protect Our Defenders


Washington Post: Navy to retool Blue Angels after scandal

Posted by POD Staff, July 23rd, 2014

The Washington Post reports:

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

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

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

Read more here.


ELLE Magazine: Inside the Lives of Soldier Girls

Posted by POD Staff, July 22nd, 2014

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

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

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

Read more here.

 


West Point chief: Academy addressing sexual harassment, assault

Posted by POD Staff, July 22nd, 2014

The Times Herald-Record reports:

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.

Read more here.


Investigation reveals creepy details behind Marine colonel’s firing

Posted by POD Staff, July 21st, 2014

The Marine Corps Times reports:

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.

Read more here.


Sexual assault and a culture unmoored

Posted by POD Staff, July 21st, 2014

James Carroll for the Boston Globe writes:

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.”

Read more here.


Appeals court rejects lawsuit by alleged military sexual assault victims

Posted by POD Staff, July 18th, 2014

The Sacramento Bee reports:

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.

Read more here.


DoD, DoJ Improve Sexual Assault Response Advocate Training

Posted by POD Staff, July 17th, 2014

DoD News reports:

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.

Read more here.


‘It’s horrifying’ Fuller’s ‘One Night’ takes aim at military rapes

Posted by POD Staff, July 16th, 2014

The Spirit of Jefferson reports:

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.

Read more here.


Brian Lewis: Men Recovering From Military Sexual Trauma

Posted by POD Staff, July 14th, 2014

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.

Men.

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…

Read more here.


“It was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through”: How reporting sexual assault can revictimize survivors

Posted by POD Staff, July 14th, 2014

Salon reports:

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.

Read more here.


Protect Our Defenders 2014 (2nd Quarter) Media Report

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.

jackie-conferenceThese 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.

While POD sees these reforms as a supplement, not a substitute for true, fundamental reform, we are calling on the Senate to pass these reforms and sign them into law.

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.

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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.

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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.

petition

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.

Social Media

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.


VMI cadet alleges sexual assault, faces criminal charge

Posted by POD Staff, July 12th, 2014

The Roanoke Times reports:

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.

Read more here.


Foreign Policy: Is it time to ask Joint Chiefs of Staff to have a meeting with Initech’s ‘Bobs’?

Posted by POD Staff, July 11th, 2014

Foreign Policy reports:

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.

Read more here.


Family, judge convinced of soldier’s innocence in sex assault case

Posted by POD Staff, July 9th, 2014

The Killeen Daily Herald reports:

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.

Read more here.


Gallup: One in Four Vets Know a Military Sexual Trauma Victim

Posted by POD Staff, July 9th, 2014

Gallup reports:

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.

Read more here.


[VIDEO] Harvey Bryant on commander authority in military sex assault cases: “I don’t think its best”

Posted by POD Staff, July 7th, 2014

WTKR.com reports:

“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.

Read and watch more here.


Panel member: Military sex assault response hard to fix

Posted by POD Staff, July 7th, 2014

The Virginian-Pilot reports:

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.

Read more here.


Politico: Adm. Howard: We ‘need to be’ in Iraq

Posted by POD Staff, July 6th, 2014

Politico reports:

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.”

Read more here.


Panel urges caution in changing military law

Posted by POD Staff, July 4th, 2014

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.

Read more here.

 

 


Soldier found guilty of male-on-male sexual assault, judge disagrees

Posted by POD Staff, July 2nd, 2014

The Killeen Daily Herald reports:

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.

Read more here.


DoD Announces New Award for Sexual Assault Prevention Innovation

Posted by POD Staff, July 1st, 2014

From a Department of Defense press release:

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.

Read more here.


Air Force staff sergeant testifies in rape case involving Coast Guardsman

Posted by POD Staff, July 1st, 2014

Local10.com reports:

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.

Read more here.


PRESS RELEASE: Protect Our Defenders Responds to Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Panel Findings That Support the Status Quo

Posted by POD Staff, June 30th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 30, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, brian@protectourdefenders.com

 

*** PRESS RELEASE ***

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

http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/live-news/articles/2014/6/30/independent-panelreleasesreportonendingmilitarysexualassault0.html

Al Jazeera America: Number of reported military sexual assault cases up 50 percent from 2012

http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/live-news/2014/6/number-of-reportedmilitarysexualassaultcasesup50percentfrom2012.html

US News and World Report: Military Panel to Hold Public Meeting on Sexual Assault

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/01/29/military-panel-to-hold-public-meeting-on-sexual-assault

Military Times: Panel: Commanders should retain authority in sex assault cases

http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20140130/NEWS05/301300023/Panel-Commanders-should-retain-authority-sex-assault-cases

Military Times: Panel slammed for closing sex assault policy hearings

http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20140127/NEWS/301270025/Panel-slammed-closing-sex-assault-policy-hearings

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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Sexual assault panel: Keep prosecutions in chain of command

Posted by POD Staff, June 30th, 2014

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.”

Read more here.