We honor, support, and give voice to the brave men and women in uniform who have been raped or sexually assaulted by fellow service members. We seek to fix the military training, investigation and adjudication systems related to sexual violence, systems that often re-victimize survivors by blaming them while failing to prosecute perpetrators.
Protect Our Defenders News Blog
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In a few years women could be in training to become Army Rangers and Navy SEALs under plans to be announced today by the military services for integrating women into combat units.
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last January lifted the 1994 Combat Exclusion Rule that restricted women from serving in frontline infantry, armor and special operations units and set a January 2016 compliance deadline. The concept of a frontline became blurred in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as women serving in other units also became the targets of roadside bombs and attacks. To date, almost 150 military women have died in those wars.
A Wall Street Journal columnist drew some heat on Tuesday for declaring that recent investigations into sexual assault in the military were nothing more than a “war on men.” Activists and members of Congress have fought a highly publicized campaign in recent months to curb the astounding levels of rape and assault in the military. The Journal’s James Taranto, though, was apparently so disturbed by one investigation that he called the entire debate “a political campaign against sexual assault in the military that shows signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality.”
Three football players at the US Naval Academy accused of sexual assault may face charges soon. Attorney Susan Burke, with whom Protect Our Defenders partners, represents the victim and advances lawsuits that address the epidemic of unpunished sexual violence within the military. Here’s a roundup of the press coverage:
In a new development in an alleged sexual assault case at the U.S. Naval Academy, a Navy official tells CNN that the school’s Superintendent, Vice Admiral Michael Miller, has ordered an Article 32 proceeding. Evidence will be presented at a hearing to a military legal officer who will determine if a court-martial is warranted.
Experts say sexual violence isn’t about sex as much as it is about power. That may help explain why the problem has long seemed intractable in the U.S. military, where hierarchy defines everything, and a commander’s order is accepted without hesitation.
But that’s only part of the challenge.
It helps to think of it in terms of physics.
The simplest of the classical six simple machines is the lever.
A military commander wishing to sexually assault someone under his or her command has leverage simply because of their respective links in the chain of command, even though the potential victim knows sexual assault is against all the military’s rules.
That’s where the lever’s key partner – the fulcrum – comes in to play.
Washington Post talks to Susan Burke, lawyer for the assault victim and Protect Our Defenders collaborator:
The charges follow a Navy Criminal Investigative Service probe that began more than a year ago. The length of the investigation drew criticism from Susan Burke, the victim’s lawyer, who accused Miller of foot-dragging.
“We are pleased at moving forward after this long delay,” Burke said.
The latest Naval Academy case joins a long string of sex assault scandals in various branches of the military, including the arrest last month of an Air Force sexual assault prevention officer on charges of sexual battery for allegedly groping a woman in a Crystal City parking lot.
Navy Times talks to Protect Our Defenders’ partner, Susan Burke:
Vice Adm. Michael Miller, the superintendent of the Naval Academy, has
reviewed the investigation and referred the case to an Article 32
hearing, but charges have not yet been brought against the alleged
offenders, according to the official, who is familiar with the case
but would only speak on condition of anonymity. As a result, specific
charges and the names of the players have not been released.
The female alleges she went to an off-campus party at the football
house in April 2012, and became so intoxicated that she blacked out,
said her attorney, Susan Burke.
“She learned from friends and social media that three football players
were claiming to have had sexual intercourse with her while she was
incapacitated,” Burke said in a statement.
A recent Pentagon survey found that 26,000 assaults took place in the military last year, and one of the most high-profile accusations has only recently come to light: the current investigation of three Naval Academy students who stand accused of raping a fellow classmate.
One would think that when the Joint Chiefs of Staff and members of their staffs took their seats in the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on June 4, they would come armed with statements promising change and detailing actions being implemented.
But, instead of being like Lieutenant General David Morrison, Chief of Staff, Australian Defense Force, who inspirationally went bare knuckles on the issue, stating in a widely-seen video that “I will be ruthless in ridding the Army of people who cannot live up to its values,” our chiefs can’t even talk a good fight!
SAN ANTONIO – A Houston area Air Force recruiter was sentenced Friday to 27 years in prison after he was convicted of sexual misconduct with potential recruits in his office, making it the harshest sentence yet since a sexual-assault scandal erupted at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland last year.
The jury of eight male officers at Lackland also gave Tech. Sgt Jaime
Rodriguez a dishonorable discharge, administering stern punishment in the
case amid complaints that the military has long protected sex offenders
while often kicking victims out of the armed services after they report the
“It’s encouraging that finally the punishment fits the crime. It’s something
we rarely see in military justice,” said Nancy Parrish, founder of the
advocacy group Protect Our Defenders. “And we hope it’s an indicator that
military juries and judges are getting the message, but fundamental reforms
are still required to fix the broken justice system.”
“The rights of victims are commonly being trampled,” said Nancy Parrish,
president of the victim advocacy group Protect Our Defenders. “It’s
intimidating for the victim, and without counsel of their own, they can be
The Pentagon faces a deepening scandal over rampant sexual assault in its
ranks and the mistreatment of victims. Federal lawmakers are battling over
how far to go in imposing reforms.
THE HOPE that Congress would adopt bold measures to end the epidemic
of sexual abuse within the military seems headed for the same heap of
broken promises that has accompanied each new scandal over decades.
Disappointing moves in the House and Senate last week failed to
address the core issue of a biased chain of command. Unless there’s a
change of heart — or action by a commander in chief who claims to want
results — unwanted sexual contact and assaults in the ranks will
continue to go unreported and unpunished.
Weekends with Alex Witt interviews Protect Our Defenders’ partner attorney Susan Burke about her suit against the Naval Academy:
Attorney Susan Burke joins MSNBC’s Alex Witt to discuss sexual assault
in the military. She has sued former Defense Secretaries Robert Gates
and Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of 28 military rape survivors and
currently represents the alleged Naval Academy rape victim. Burke does
not believe that fair sexual assault investigations are possible
within the chain of command still in place. She underscores how
assault is a decades-long problem and an epidemic. Burke gives the
background of her Naval Academy case and how it illustrates the bias
and conflict of keeping an assault investigation within the chain of
Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, whose aggravated sexual assault conviction was overturned by an Air Force lieutenant general citing Wilkerson’s sterling record and happy marriage, engaged in an extramarital affair that produced a child, the Air Force has confirmed.
An investigation into the matter by Lt. Gen. Robin Rand, commander of the Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern), found “sufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations” about the fighter pilot’s 2004 extramarital relationship and its resulting child, for whom he had relinquished parental rights, the command said in a news release.
As a result, administrative actions were taken against Wilkerson, the news release said.
Wilkerson could not be prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice because of a five-year statutory limit on adultery or conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
A lieutenant colonel who saw his sexual assault conviction overturned in part because a three-star general thought he was a committed husband turns out to have a child from an affair more than eight years ago, the Air Force confirmed.
A command-directed investigation substantiated allegations Lt. Col. James Wilkerson had an extra-marital affair that produced a child, according to a news release from the Twelfth Air Force.
PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS CALLS SEN. LEVIN AMENDMENT INEFFECTIVE, DOES NOT ADDRESS CORE PROBLEM OF MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT EPIDEMIC
WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee removed legislation from the defense spending bill that addresses the core issue of the ongoing sexual assault crisis in our military – the often biased chain of command. Sen. Levin replaced the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement with his own measure that keeps prosecution within the chain of command. Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Boxer’s (D-CA) Military Justice Improvement Act would have removed the chain of command from decisions over whether series crimes are prosecuted – the bill had nearly a third of the Senate supporting it with 28 co-sponsors.
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish released the following statement after today’s hearing:
“Senator Levin’s proposal does not constitute meaningful reform. It’s a tweak to a dysfunctional and biased system. It displays a shocking allegiance to military leaders over the interests of of sexual assault victims.
It is small incremental change and all behind the scenes. The trouble is, victims won’t see any of it. It does nothing to bolstertheir trust in the system.
Even as he did that, he spoke of the need to address the crisis. “We have a problem with the underreporting of sexual assaults,” he said. “We have a problem with the inadequate investigation of sexual assaults. We have a problem with the lack of support for victims of sexual assaults. We have a problem with retaliation, ostracism and peer pressure against such victims. And we have a problem with a culture that has taken inadequate steps to correct this situation.”
In the past few weeks, the Pentagon’s top brass and lawmakers of all stripes have called the rise in sexual assaults in the military everything from a “cancer” to a “plague.”
But on Wednesday, when the Senate Armed Services Committee had its chance to find a cure, it opted for the equivalent of an aspirin.
Led by its chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the committee voted 17-9 to keep the current system of prosecuting assault cases in place – a system that discourages victims from reporting these crimes. The senators, bowing to the Pentagon’s wishes, settled for unsatisfactory half-measures instead of the fundamental overhaul that’s needed.
WASHINGTON- Sen. Carl Levin said he would offer a plan requiring senior U.S. military officers to review decisions to prosecute sexual assault cases in the military.
Levin’s proposal is similar to changes made last year by then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, which placed authority to investigate, and convene a court martial, in the hands of high-ranking military officers.
Nancy Parrish, president of the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, called Levin’s proposal “another half-measure that will essentially kick the can down the road. It is the low-level commanders who hold the initial disposition authority that can prevent a sexual assault case from ever moving forward.”
Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan said Tuesday that he will replace Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s amendment to the 2014 Defense Authorization Act that would remove major military crimes from the chain of command. Instead, Levin offered a plan requiring senior officers to review decisions to prosecute sexual assault cases.
This proposal is similar to changes made last year by then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, which placed authority to investigate and convene a court martial in the hands of a colonel or Navy captain.
Senator Levin’s bill “is another half measure that will essentially kick the can down the road,” said Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders told MSNBC. Parrish argued that, even if higher-ranking officers are involved in reviewing decisions, “It is the low-level commanders who hold the initial disposition authority that can prevent a sexual assault case from ever moving forward. These unit commanders hold the keys to the courthouse.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s decision to go for broke pushing a far-reaching measure designed to crack down on the scourge of sexual assaults in the military sets the stage for a likely ill-fated showdown with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., when the panel marks up its annual defense bill Wednesday.
The Democratic senator from New York included her controversial bill, which would take the decision of whether to prosecute sexual assaults out of the chain of command, in Tuesday’s markup of the defense bill by the Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, essentially challenging Levin to strip it out. The personnel section of the bill, including Gillibrand’s language, was adopted by voice vote.
Levin, a well-respected chairman on both sides of the aisle, is expected to prevail, but not without Gillibrand putting up a fight first. It was clear at a hearing last week on proposals to combat sexual assault that Levin was generally supportive of keeping commanders empowered and accountable for correcting abuses in the system, including the growing problem of sexual assaults. The Michigan Democrat confirmed this suspicion Tuesday, telling reporters he was pursuing an alternative to Gillibrand’s bill that would require reviews of cases that commanders do not choose to prosecute.
A Washington Post – Pew Research Center poll found:
Most Americans see sexual assault in the U.S. military as a big issue, but they are divided on whether the problem is best addressed by military leaders or if Congress should intervene, according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll.
Mirroring a sharp split among lawmakers, 45 percent of the public says Congress should step in and change military law as a primary means to tackle the issue. About the same number, 44 percent, say the problem should be handled by military leaders within the chain of command.
Few people, however, have a great deal of confidence in either the Congress or military leaders to handle the situation, but Congress fares worse. Overall, twice as many Americans say they have “no confidence at all” in Congress as say the same about military brass.
Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, offered a measure that would give military prosecutors rather than commanders the power to decide which sexual assault crimes to try, with the goal of increasing the number of people who report crimes without fear of retaliation. Mr. Levin, Democrat of Michigan, said he would replace Ms. Gillibrand’s measure — which has 27 co-sponsors, including four Republicans — with one that would require a senior military officer to review decisions by commanders who decline to prosecute sexual assault cases. Although Mr. Levin’s measure would change the current system, it would keep prosecution of sexual assault cases within the chain of command, as the military wants.
WASHINGTON - A U.S. Senate panel on Tuesday approved a controversial plan to improve the military’s handling of sexual assault cases, backing draft legislation that would let prosecutors, rather than a victim’s commander, decide if a sex offense should go to trial.
The proposal was one of a dozen sexual assault-related measures endorsed by the personnel panel of the Senate Armed Services Committee for inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual legislation that sets policy for the U.S. military.
Approval of the proposal set the stage for a battle over the issue, which is opposed by senior defense officials, as the legislation makes its way through the full Armed Services Committee and then the entire Senate in the coming weeks.
WASHINGTON – The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says Congress is considering stripping the military of its authority to prosecute sexual assault cases and shifting the responsibility to state prosecutors.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday that the status quo is unacceptable as the military deals with an epidemic of sexual assaults.
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. — Nearly every soldier who wears two or more stars gathered near Washington on Monday to rally around the idea that fighting sexual assault is priority No. 1 from the top to the bottom of the Army.
Some 250 generals and top noncommissioned officers attended the Army’s sixth annual Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention summit at Joint Base Andrews, Md., for sessions that included emotional talks by servicemembers about their own experiences of sexual assault.
This year’s conference takes place amid a deepening scandal over military sexual assault, with a recent Pentagon report indicating incidences of unwanted sexual contact rose sharply from 2011 to 2012. It may also carry added resonance for commanders because one of their own, Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison, commander of Army forces in Japan, was suspended Friday by Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno for allegedly failing to properly investigate a sexual assault complaint.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin plans to replace a measure from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that would take prosecution of sexual assault out of the military chain of command with an alternative provision that will replace the New York Democrat’s bill.
Levin, a Michigan Democrat, told reporters he will offer an alternative measure that requires automatic review of any general’s decision not to prosecute sexual assault at the next level of command during the committee’s markup of an annual defense authorization billWednesday.
Passage of Levin’s alternative will likely kill Gillibrand’s measure.
Gillibrand, who chairs an Armed Services Personnel subcommitee, is expected to win that panel’s approval of her measure Tuesdayafternoon.
Her bill removes the power of senior officers to overturn findings by military courts. It responds to an increase in reported rapes and other sexual crimes across the Armed Services, and to controversial instances in which generals exercised power to overturn military courts’ convictions
In the fall of 1991, hundreds of naval aviators mobbed the Las Vegas Hilton for the annual Tailhook convention, a gathering of the Navy’s entire aviation community.
Stepping out on the hotel’s third floor hallway en route to squadron hospitality suites there, Navy Lt. Paula Coughlin was violently assaulted, groped by fellow officers who tried to pull off her clothes as she was forced through a gantlet of pilots and navigators. When she complained to her boss the next morning, Rear Adm. John Snyder was dismissive: “What did you expect?”
Her complaints ignored, the young helicopter pilot eventually took her story public, unleashing a firestorm that changed the military forever: Top brass lost their jobs, sexual harassment training became mandatory for all, and women were cleared to fly combat jets.
But Coughlin was branded. She got out of the Navy in 1995, she recalled, but “I still get hate mail.”
At 51, she runs a yoga studio in Florida and serves on the advisory board of Protect Our Defenders, advocating for military sexual assault victims.
“I used to think being at Tailhook was the biggest mistake of my life,” she said. “But you know what? It’s a wound that has given me so much more understanding and compassion. It’s made me a better person.”
Posted by Nancy Parrish, POD President, June 10th, 2013
The National Journal reports:
Lawmakers working to combat the alarming escalation of sexual assaults in the military are running into a lack of appreciation that the problem is not just a “women’s issue.”
Although a greater proportion of women in the military are victims of sexual misconduct (about 6.1 percent, compared with 1.2 percent of men), a fact often lost is that more than half of the victims are actually men. That is because there are so many more men than women in the armed services.
Indeed, men were the victims of 14,000 out of 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact in the military last year, according to a survey released last month by the Defense Department. Those statistics are estimates based on a survey of military members, because the problem of sexual misconduct is chronically underreported. Less than 10 percent of victims report their abuse and men are far less likely than women to come forward.
Posted by Nancy Parrish, POD President, June 10th, 2013
The Guardian reports:
During this week’s battle of wills between legislators and military leaders at the Senate armed services committee hearing into sexual assault, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and other high-level witnesses admitted failure, expressing remorse and their desire to do better over a crisis that lawmakers warned threatened US troops’ recruitment and retention.
But the uniformed military leaders – who outnumbered victims’ advocates testifying by a ratio of 18 to two – staged a unified pushback on Senate proposals to strip military commanders of their power to decide whether to prosecute sexual assaults in the ranks. Victims’ advocates say the current system stops 86% of victims coming forward and fails many of the 14% who do.
Missing from the hearing were any victims of military sexual abuse – although some gave testimony at a previous subcommittee hearing in March – and advocates and senators cited cases that they said highlighted just how broken the current system of military justice is for victims of sexual assault.
On the Hill, the brass argued that they could not retain “cohesion” and “order” if commanders were not calling all the legal shots. But Nancy Parrish, the president of a victims’ rights group, told a chilling story about a young woman in a combat zone who had tried four times to report a soldier she says raped her. She saw him coming toward her truck as she got ready for a mission and recalled her feelings: “I shut down inside. I was lead driver in our convoy, and I kept hoping to hit an I.E.D. after that.”
As Parrish sardonically asked, you call that “unit cohesion” and “good order and discipline”?
Posted by Nancy Parrish, POD President, June 10th, 2013
The Hill reports:
President Obama is under pressure to support legislation that would move the prosecution of sexual assault cases in the military outside the chain of command.
Obama has stayed quiet on legislation sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), which would grant military prosecutors the power to decide whether to prosecute sexual assault and other major criminal cases — not commanders. It makes an exception for military-specific crimes.
The fight forces Obama to choose between military leaders and some of his keenest supporters.
Posted by Nancy Parrish, POD President, June 10th, 2013
The San Antonio Express-News reports:
WASHINGTON — The epidemic of sexual assault within U.S. armed forces has reached the point that the Senate’s premier combat war hero bluntly warned colleagues and the nation’s military leadership Tuesday that he could no longer recommend that young women enlist to defend their nation.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a career Navy pilot who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, described his loss of faith during hearings by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is considering proposals to address the problem.
The proposals include having military commanders hand off decisions on sexual assault cases to trained military prosecutors, rather than deciding for themselves whether an accused GI faces limited non-judicial punishment or a court martial.
SAN DIEGO — Stacey Thompson had just been stationed at a Marine Corps base in Japan when she said her sergeant laced her drinks with drugs, raped her in his barracks and then dumped her onto a street outside a nightclub at 4 a.m.
The 19-year-old lance corporal was not afraid to speak up.
She reported it to her superiors but little happened. She said she discovered her perpetrator was allowed to leave the Marine Corps and she found herself, instead, at the center of a separate investigation for drug use stemming from that night. Six months later, she was kicked out with an other-than-honorable discharge – one step below honorable discharge – which means she lost her benefits.
*Military sexual assault survivors and Protect Our Defenders representatives are available for interviews.
**If you would like to receive the embargoed statement to Congress from Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish who will be testifying at Tuesday’s Senate hearing, please email: email@example.com.
PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS TO TESTIFY AT SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE HEARING ON EPIDEMIC OF RAPE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT IN THE MILITARY
President Nancy Parrish to testify on pending legislation that would remove sexual assault cases from chain of command, strip commanders of their ability to overturn convictions
Washington DC - Tomorrow, the Senate Armed Services’ Oversight subcommittee willhold a hearing on legislation regarding sexual assaults in the military. Proposed bi-partisan legislation (the Military Justice Improvement Act) from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) would drastically reform the military justice system, and the way sexual assault cases would be handled.
Protect Our Defenders President, Nancy Parrish will share stories from survivors, and call on Congress to end commanders’ unfettered authority over the legal aspects of military justice. Parrish will tell Congress for justice to prevail there must be an independent reporting process and commanders’ authority to prosecute and convene trials must be removed. Nothing less will end the damaging cycle of scandals.
The hearing will take place Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 4 at 9:30am ET, in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.
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 editors of the New York Times penned a column today calling for an overhaul of the military justice system pertaining to rape:
In his commencement address at the United States Military Academy late last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged the newest graduates of the two-centuries-old academy to help stamp out the “scourge” of sexual assaults in the military. His call had special resonance. It had been revealed just days before that a sergeant responsible for advising cadets had been charged with secretly videotaping female cadets in the shower — just one of an alarming cascade of incidents in recent weeks evidencing the depth, frequency and sheer brazenness of the military’s sexual misconduct problem.
WASHINGTON — Military service chiefs who will testify Tuesday about their plans to deal with the burgeoning crisis of sexual assault in the ranks will face a group of female senators determined to change a culture they call demeaning to women.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has proposed one of the most sweeping overhauls to the military justice system to deal with sex assault, made clear that only action, not pronouncements, will be acceptable.
“Enough is enough,” Gillibrand, the New York Democrat who chairs the Armed Services Committee’s personnel subcommittee, told USA TODAY in a statement. “Words are not enough. It is time to act.”
Amid a jumble of letters, photos and military documents, Tina Clemans keeps a Ziploc bag containing her daughter’s blood-soaked hospital gown. It is a reminder of the savagery of one of two sexual assaults her daughter says she endured on a Texas military base last year.
Between April and July, Clemans said, her 21-year-old daughter, Myah Bilton-Smith, was raped twice at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, where she had been stationed for two months. But, Clemans said, instead of helping her daughter and finding the perpetrators, the Air Force tried to cover up the rapes by wrongly diagnosing Bilton-Smith with a mental illness and pushing her out of the service.
The Sunday Times in Great Britain has a special report today on MST in the American military:
THE rugby team of West Point military academy, New York, has been disbanded and its players stripped of their ranks after an investigation into lewd chain emails found them guilty of perpetuating a “culture of disrespect towards women”.
Players, some of whom could be destined to become generals, had shared emails with the entire rugby squad in which they rated female cadets and civilian girlfriends according to their sexual attractiveness and joked about rape, incest and homosexuality.
Concern has reached the White House, which last week asked West Point for details about the case.
Last weekend Chuck Hagel, the defence secretary, spoke at a West Point ceremony during which 14 rugby players were allowed to graduate. He said that sexual harassment and sexual assault were “debilitating, insidious and destructive forces” in the military and told cadets: “You must be the generation of leaders that stops it . . . this scourge must be stamped out.”
NEW YORK — Sexual assault occurs in myriad settings and the perpetrators come from every swath of U.S. society. Yet as recent incidents and reports make clear, it’s a particularly intractable problem in the military, with its enduring macho culture and unique legal system.
The most significant factor, according to advocates, is the perception by victims in the military that they lack the recourses available in the civilian world to bring assailants to justice.
“The military says they have zero tolerance, but in fact that’s not true,” said Dr. Katherine Scheirman, a retired Air Force colonel with more than 20 years of service in the U.S. and abroad. “Having a sexual assault case in your unit is considered something bad, so commanders have had an incredible incentive not to destroy their own careers by prosecuting someone.”
In the latest in a string of sexual assault cases in the military, US Naval Academy football players are accused of assaulting a female midshipman. More such victims are publicly telling their stories, and in Congress, women are leading the way to prevent such attacks.
Sen. Barbara Boxer joins former U.S. Marine and survivor of military sexual assault Stacey Thompson at a news conference at the California Women’s Law Center in Los Angeles on Friday.
Often times, the problem with sexual assault in the military is that because often nothing happens when the sexual assault is reported, victims are less than willing to come forward. What is more, often times, the victim gets punished instead of the perpetrator.
Lance Corporal Stacey Thompson lived that. She had just been stationed at a Marine Corps base in Japan when her sergeant laced her drinks with drugs, raped her in the barracks and dumped her onto the street outside a nightclub at 4am. Lance Corporal Thompson, though, has decided not to remain silent.