Mission: We honor, support, and give voice to the brave men and women in uniform who have been raped or sexually assaulted by fellow service members. We seek to fix the military training, investigation and adjudication systems related to sexual violence, systems that often re-victimize survivors by blaming them while failing to prosecute perpetrators.
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March 7, 2013 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, Brian@protectourdefenders.com
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PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS RESPONDS TO SUSPENSION OF US ARMY’S TOP SEXUAL ASSAULT PROSECUTOR AFTER ACCUSATIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
Washington DC – Lieutenant Colonel Joseph “Jay” Morse, the United States Army’s top prosecutor has been suspended after allegations of sexual against at a legal conference on sexual assault in 2011. Another Army lawyer has alleged that Lt. Col. Morse attempted to kiss her and groped her against her will in a hotel room at the conference.
Last month, the Army disqualified 588 soldiers from what they call ‘positions of trusts,’ for various crimes including sexual assault, child abuse, and drunk driving. These disqualified soldiers included recruiters, drill sergeants, and even sexual assault counselors.
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish released the following statement:
“If true, this case is yet another disheartening example of the hollow pledges of ‘zero tolerance’ we have heard for more than 20 years. When the military has those at top of the chain who are in charge of fighting sexual assault accused of sexual misconduct at a conference on sexual assault it should be clear to every level headed human being the status quo must be changed.
“This reads like an article from the Onion. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing funny about it.
“There will always be bad actors in any class of people or segment of society, including prosecutors. The problem is that commanders who today control the military justice system are inherently conflicted, often biased, and not trained or competent to handle issues involving the prosecution of sexual assault. Just because one Army senior prosecutor commits a crime does not change those dynamics.”
Stars and Stripes: Army’s top sex assault prosecutor suspended after assault allegation
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, of Katz, Marshall & Banks LLP 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.
Attorney Susan Burke is featured in this article from the National Journal:
Victim-advocacy groups who support the Gillibrand bill said that it was an important step to finally see a vote after so many fits and starts, but that the increased buzz on the issue still needs to be followed up with decisive legislative action.
“The attention has generated some helpful steps,” said Susan Burke, an attorney who collaborates with Protect Our Defenders on sexual-assault cases. “The problem is that it is like building a house on a faulty foundation. It’s a waste of time and money if you don’t fix the structural problems.”
Prominent fellow Democrat and former sexual-assault prosecutor Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri lobbied colleagues hard against the Gillibrand bill for months, arguing it could lead to fewer prosecutions, not more, by removing commanders’ power.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made what appeared to be a politically savvy move Thursday, voting to advance a measure from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to remove the prosecution of serious crime, including sexual assault, from the military chain of command.
McConnell was one of 11 Republicans to vote to break a filibuster of the bill, which had the support of conservative firebrands Rand Paul, also of Kentucky, and Ted Cruz. Though the measure failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to proceed, McConnell’s vote could potentially inoculate him from attacks on both his left and right flank.
McConnell, who has the endorsement of Paul, has been careful this Congress especially to vote with the junior senator on as many measures as possible. The veteran Kentucky lawmaker is facing a challenge from conservative Matt Bevin, who likely would have attacked McConnell for breaking with Paul and Cruz.
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish is featured in this article from Bloomberg:
The vote came on the same day the Army disclosed that its top sexual-assault prosecutor is under investigation based on allegations that he groped a female lawyer at a sexual-assault conference in 2011, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed Army officials. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Morse, who oversees 23 other special-victims prosecutors, was placed under criminal investigation after the lawyer reported the alleged incident, the Post reported.
Lobbying over Gillibrand’s measure had been waged on both sides for months, pitting the Pentagon brass against victims’ advocates.
“It is a travesty that this very practical, conservative measure, supported by a substantial majority of the Senate and 60 percent of Americans was blocked by a procedural filibuster,” Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders, a victims’ support group, said in a statement. “We may have lost this battle due to political maneuverings, but effective reform will be accomplished. It is only a matter of time.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand came up short Thursday in her yearlong campaign to overhaul military sexual-assault policies, falling five votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.
The New York Democrat’s bill, which would have removed the chain of command from prosecuting sexual assaults and other major military crimes, was derailed in the Senate on a 55-45 vote, closing out one chapter in a debate that divided the Senate but not along typical partisan lines.
Ten Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and 2016 presidential hopefuls Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, backed Gillibrand’s controversial chain-of-command bill. But that wasn’t enough to overcome 10 Democratic votes against her, including prominent defense hawks like Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) also opposed the bill.
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish is featured in this article from Stars and Stripes:
“It is a travesty that this very practical, conservative measure, supported by a substantial majority of the Senate and 60 percent of Americans was blocked by a procedural filibuster,” said Nancy Parrish, president of Protect our defenders. “We may have lost this battle due to political maneuverings, but effective reform will be accomplished. It is only a matter of time.”
The debate came at a time of growing frustration and outrage over the military’s seeming inability to reverse an apparently growing number of sexual assaults in the ranks. About 5,400 instances of sexual assault or “unwanted sexual contact” were reported within the U.S. military last fiscal year, a 60 percent rise from 2012, the Pentagon said last week.
Also Thursday, Stars and Stripes reported that the Army had recently suspended its top sexual assault prosecutor, Lt. Col. Joseph “Jay” Morse, after another sexual assault prosecutor said he had groped and tried to kiss her against her will at a sexual assault legal conference in 2011.
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish is featured in this ABC News article:
Protect Our Defenders, a group representing survivors of military sexual assaults, expressed disappointment in the vote.
“It is a travesty that this very practical, conservative measure, supported by a substantial majority of the Senate and 60% of Americans was blocked by a procedural filibuster,” Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders. “We may have lost this battle due to political maneuverings, but effective reform will be accomplished. It is only a matter of time. We will redouble our efforts to secure the legal rights of American servicemen and women who have been sexually abused while serving their country.”
Before Thursday’s vote, McCaskill said she was disappointed that the disagreement between Gillibrand and McCaskill “overshadowed the amazing work that so many have done this year to enact a different day in the United States military.”
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish is featured in this MSNBC article:
The votes took place as two sexual assault court martials are beginning. The court martial of Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair began Tuesday. Sinclair faces charges that he forced a female junior officer to perform oral sex on him and threatened to kill her family. Headmitted guilt on several lesser charges related to inappropriate sexual relationships, but pleaded not guilty to the assault and threat charges. Former U.S. Naval Academy football player Joshua Tate’s court martial is scheduled to begin March 14. Tate and two teammates faced allegations that they sexually assaulted a female midshipman at a 2012 party. Charges were dropped against those two men.
Advocates for survivors vowed to keep fighting to change the system. “We may have lost this battle due to political maneuverings, but effective reform will be accomplished,” Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders, said in a statement. “It is only a matter of time. We will redouble our efforts to secure the legal rights of American servicemen and women who have been sexually abused while serving their country.”
Legislation to curb sexual assaults in the military by stripping senior commanders of their authority to prosecute rapes and other serious offenses is headed for a highly anticipated vote in the Senate.
The bill, which is expected to come up for a vote Thursday afternoon, is firmly opposed by the Pentagon’s leadership, which argues officers should have more responsibility, not less, for the conduct of the troops they lead.
A solid majority of the Senate backs the bill, sponsored by Democratic senator Kirsten Gillibrand, illustrating the deep frustration among Republicans and Democrats over the military’s failure to stem the epidemic of sexual assaults in the ranks. Gillibrand, however, will likely need 60 votes to prevent a filibuster that would block the bill’s passage.
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish is featured in this article from Stars and Stripes:
The suspension follows on the heels of a late February announcement by the Army it had suspended 588 troops and employees in “positions of trust” — including sexual assault response personnel — for suspected offenses including sexual crimes and alcohol abuse.
“This reads like an article from the Onion,” said Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders, in an email. “Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing funny about it.
“If true, this case is yet another disheartening example of the hollow pledges of ‘zero tolerance’ we have heard for more than 20 years,” Parrish wrote. “When the military has those at top of the chain who are in charge of fighting sexual assault accused of sexual misconduct at a conference on sexual assault it should be clear to every level headed human being [that] the status quo must be changed.”
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish is featured in this article from VICE:
The trial has become a sideshow to a more important event that could take place as early as 2 PM on Thursday: a Senate vote on the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). Sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), the bill seeks to shift authority over reports of sexual assault in the military from the chain of command to independent military prosecutors, in order to eliminate any conflict of interest.
“In the military, the accused’s commander serves as the Convening Authority, the person with the ultimate power to decide whether a case should go to court-martial and appoint the jury,” Nancy Parrish, the head of Protect Our Defenders, which supports victims of sexual assault in the military, told VICE News. “This is an inherently conflicted, often biased, and inefficient system.”
March 6, 2013
Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, firstname.lastname@example.org
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PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS CALLS ON PRESIDENT OBAMA TO HAVE MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS’ BACKS AFTER VOTE FILIBUSTERED
Washington DC – Today, Congress has failed service members who have risked their lives to defend this nation. Although a majority of the Senate and the American people are in favor of independent and impartial justice for service members, the Senate filibustered the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), which would have created such a system within the military. Sadly, two Senators, Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), led the effort to prevent justice from prevailing. This filibuster condemns service members to an arbitrary and broken judicial process in which conflict and personal bias control the adjudicatory process.
Last year, President Obama told victims of sexual assault in the military, “I want them to hear directly from their commander in chief that I’ve got their backs.” The time has come for the President to take meaningful steps to demonstrate his commitment to that promise.
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish released the following statement:
“This movement of survivors, their supporters, and those in our military community who recognize the need for reform to protect our troops will not be denied. In America, every major civil rights issue has taken many attempts until the law was fixed to reflect the moral decency and inherent fairness of the American people. Service members deserve a professional and unbiased justice system equal the system afforded to the civilians they protect. It is a travesty that this very practical, conservative measure, supported by a substantial majority of the Senate and 60% of Americans was blocked by a procedural filibuster. We may have lost this battle due to political maneuverings, but effective reform will be accomplished. It is only a matter of time. We will redouble our efforts to secure the legal rights of American servicemen and women who have been sexually abused while serving their country.
The Senate will hold dueling votes today on measures from Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill that would overhaul how the military handles cases of sexual assault. Despite different approaches, there’s little dispute a problem exists
The Senate is set to hold dueling votes Thursday on two measures overhauling how the military handles sexual assault cases. The sticking point has come down to whether to leave the prosecution of such crimes within the chain of command.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, has been doggedly pushing to give the cases to the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. She has the public endorsement of 54 of her colleagues, five short to avoid a filibuster. Gillibrand, who has the support of most victim’s groups, notes that according to the Pentagon’s own research, more 25% of women and 27% of men who were victims of unwanted sexual contact indicated that their offender was within their chain of command, thus making it difficult for them to report such cases. Gillibrand’s bill would leave 37 serious crimes uniquely military in nature, such as disobeying orders of going AWOL, within the chain of command.
In his immaculate blue dress uniform, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair stood ramrod straight before a judge Thursday and pleaded guilty to three charges that could send him to prison for up to 15 years.
It was a remarkable admission sure to end the military career of a man once regarded as a rising star among the U.S. Army’s small cadre of trusted battle commanders.
Sinclair, 51, still faces five other charges stemming from the claims of a female captain nearly 20 years his junior who says the general twice forced her to perform oral sex. But by pleading guilty to the lesser charges, Sinclair’s lawyers believe they will strengthen his case at trial by potentially limiting some of the salacious evidence prosecutors can present.
The story of Airman Jane Neubauer, who was allegedly raped and then hung out to dry by the Air Force, is one of many that show why Congress must reform the way sexual assault cases are handled by the military. Two leading advocates for military-sexual assault reform reacted to Neubauer’s story and discussed the Senate vote expected this week on the issue.
Two competing bills, from senators Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand, are scheduled for “side-by-side votes that will allow either or both measures to proceed if they muster the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster.”
The Senate will hold two long-awaited votes Thursday on military sexual assaults, ending a chapter in the yearlong debate that has divided both parties while also creating some unusual bipartisan alliances.
Back-to-back votes are scheduled to begin around 2 p.m. on the bills from Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).
Both proposals would overhaul the military’s policies for handling sexual assaults but in dramatically different ways.
Gillibrand, who counts the public support of 55 senators so far on legislation to remove the military chain of command from prosecution decisions, made a last dash for votes Wednesday by lobbying colleagues on the floor and passing out a handout backing her position.
Two powerful women senators, Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, took the lead on one of the most vexing problems facing the military: How to combat sexual assault and reform the system so perpetrators get punished, and victims are protected.
Each has worked aggressively for many months to win support from their colleagues, and they disagree on one key provision. Their bills will be tested next week in side-by-side votes that will allow either or both measures to proceed if they muster the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster.
Gillibrand said she is confident she will have the necessary 60 votes. With 55 senators, including 10 Republicans, publicly supporting her legislation to move sexual-assault investigations to independent military prosecutors and away from the chain of command, Gillibrand has proved tenacious in taking on the big guns in her party. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, back McCaskill, who favors keeping the chain of command for these crimes, but with modifications to give victims more protection.
A military judge refused Tuesday to dismiss sexual assault charges against a one-star general, rejecting defense allegations that the Army has unfairly prosecuted the case in response to political pressure to crack down on sexual abuse in the ranks.
The ruling came after searing testimony about the emotional breakdown last month of the then-lead military prosecutor, described as irrational and suicidal in the days before he quit the case. Lawyers for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair had cited comments by the former prosecutor, Lt. Col. William Helixon, in alleging “unlawful command influence” by the Army chain of command.
Helixon was described in testimony by a fellow military legal officer as “crying, irrational, incoherent” and a “functional alcoholic” holed up in a Washington, D.C., luxury hotel on the weekend of Feb. 8 and 9. Brig. Gen. Paul Wilson, a senior Army legal officer at the Pentagon, said he took Helixon to a military hospital in Virginia because he appeared suicidal.
On the night of July 26, 2013, Airman First Class Jane Neubauer was on a beach in Biloxi, Mississippi having a few drinks and hanging out with friends when she got a text inviting her to a party. The sun had set, but the gulf coast air was still hot and muggy when she jumped in a car and drove off with a group of suspected drug dealers. They weren’t her friends and it wasn’t her idea of a good time. Neubauer, 23 years old and new to the military, had been recruited by the Air Force’s secretive law enforcement branch, the Office of Special Investigations, to infiltrate a drug ring selling pills out of a local restaurant.
Suicide rates soared among soldiers who went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan and those who never left the United States, according to the largest study ever conducted on suicide in the military.
To prepare the study, researchers scanned records from nearly a million soldiers.
Scientists have long speculated that the fast-paced tempo the Army was under at home and abroad during the war years was an overall strain that contributed to suicides and that deaths were not just a factor of combat duty. The research by the National Institute of Mental Health appears to bear this out.
Two issues go on trial Tuesday at the same time, in the same courtroom, at Fort Bragg.
One is the court-martial of Brig. Gen. Jeff Sinclair, a battle-seasoned, once rising star in the Army. He is accused of sexually assaulting an officer under his command near the end of a long-running adulterous affair.
The second puts the military’s criminal justice system to the test. Critics have accused the military of being soft on sexual misconduct and sexual predators in the ranks. Now, as powerful politicians, including President Obama, are exerting pressure for the military to take strong action in sexual assault cases, Sinclair’s defense lawyers say the tide may be turning too far the other way.
The former head of a Marine Corps legal team tasked with prosecuting sex assault cases will face an administrative hearing in March, accused of touching a female subordinate inappropriately.
Lt. Col. Thomas Jasper is scheduled to face a board of inquiry March 12 to determine whether he will stay in the Marine Corps, said Maj. Amy Punzel, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Installations West. While Marine officials did not specify what charges Jasper faces, an official characterized the alleged offense as an assault.
“Pursuant of the SecNav Instruction a Board of Inquiry is convened for one or more of the following: substandard performance of duty, misconduct, or moral or professional dereliction,” Punzel said. “Since the BOI is an administrative process, we are unable to release the details regarding this situation.”
As one major battle over sexual assault in the military plays out in North Carolina this week, another is set to unfold in Washington.
At Fort Bragg, Army prosecutors will try to prove that Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair forced his lover, a junior officer, to perform fellatio, and threatened to kill her and her family if she revealed their relationship.
Defense lawyers will argue that the sex was consensual, that text messages show she pursued the general, and that she fabricated the assault claims to avoid being prosecuted for adultery. They also contend that the chief prosecutor’s abrupt resignation last month, after he tried to persuade commanders to drop the most serious charges, is evidence that senior officers may have illegally sought to influence the case.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has led efforts in Congress to address military sexual crimes, says she thinks she has the votes to pass legislation that would remove commanders from sexual assault investigations.
Gillibrand, who appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, said she believes the vote will come this week and that the measure will get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
“I think we’re going to pass this bill. I think we have the votes we need. We already have a majority of the Senate behind it,” Gillibrand said.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) responds to Secretary Hagel’s comments on CBS’s Face the Nation regarding commander responsibility.
The New York Democrat has faced off with top Pentagon officials and members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in her quest to put military lawyers, not commanders, in charge of making the decision about whether to prosecute a sexual assault. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., had led the charge on a competing effort to keep the decision to prosecute within the chain of command, but take away the ability of commanders to overturn a conviction. That and other reforms were implemented in the 2014 defense authorization that passed in December, but McCaskill is offering an a less controversial alternative to Gillibrand’s amendment that strengthens some of the reforms already passed, eliminates the “good soldier” defense for those accused, and allows victims a formal say in whether their case is tried in civilian or military court, among other things. The two proposals are set to receive side-by-side votes within the next two weeks.
About 5,400 instances of sexual assault or “unwanted sexual contact” were reported within the U.S. military last fiscal year, a 60 percent rise from 2012, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
The total, which is preliminary, has risen since late December, when the military had just over 5,000 reports. The number could potentially rise somewhat higher before a final report for 2013, Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson said.
In fiscal 2012, military members reported 3,374 instances of unwanted sexual contact. That same year, defense official estimated the true number was about 26,000, based on a “prevalence survey” given to troops.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202.253.4330, email@example.com
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Protect Our Defenders Calls For Complete Overhaul of Tracking System for Criminals and Sexual Predators in the Armed Forces
WASHINGTON, D.C.– Yesterday, USA Today revealed that United States Army has disqualified 588 soldiers from what they call ‘positions of trusts,’ for various crimes including sexual assault, child abuse, and drunk driving. These disqualified soldiers included recruiters, drill sergeants, and even sexual assault counselors.
Earlier this week, Tailhook Whistleblower and Protect Our Defenders Board of Directors Member Paula Coughlin launched a petition calling on Congress to bring the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) to a vote! In only two days, the petition already has over 3,000 signatures.
This bipartisan, common sense legislation (now supported by 55 Senators), would remove the decision to prosecute rape and sexual assault cases from a conflicted and often-biased chain of command, and put it into the hands of independent prosecutors.
In the wake of a review ordered by the Defense secretary to help bring down rates of sexual assault, the Army is firing hundreds of soldiers from their jobs in “positions of trust.” This move has advocacy organizations alternately hailing the removals as an important step in ongoing efforts to bring down sexual assault rates, and unleashing a new string of critiques against the Pentagon.
Pressure to get a handle on rising reports of sexual assault has been increasing as the Senate schedules a vote on a bill by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) of New York, which would take away from commanders the final say on whether prosecution of a sexual assault case proceeds. Most senior Pentagon officials strongly oppose such a move.
Hours into a congressional hearing Wednesday on the ties among sexual assault, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide, USA Today came out with the news about the firings: After reviewing the records of 20,000 troops, the Army was going to remove 588 sexual assault counselors, as well as recruiters and drill sergeants, because of convictions in their past – including for child abuse, stalking, drug use, drunken driving, or even sexual assault.
Last year, a Pentagon report estimated that there were approximately 26,000 instances of unwanted sexual contact in fiscal year 2012. Only a few thousand of those instances were reported, and only 302 cases ever made it to trial.
The issue has plagued all branches of the armed forces for decades, and while Congress has passed historic changes toward addressing the issue, senators like Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., want to dramatically alter the way sexual assault cases are handled.
The Senate on Wednesday came to a deal that would bring competing proposals from both senators up for a vote likely within the next two weeks, NBC News reports.
Congresswoman Speier was interviewed by CNN’s Carol Costello about the Army disqualifying 588 soldiers as sexual assault counselors, recruiters and drill sergeants for infractions that include drunken driving, child abuse and sexual assault.
Senate Republicans relented Wednesday night and agreed to hold expedited votes on a pair of bills that would further crack down on sexual assaults in the military.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) on Monday had objected to the votes, saying they should be paired with a vote to stiffen sanctions against Iran. He announced Tuesday he supports the anti-assault bills, however, and Republicans are now trying to attach Iran sanctions to a pending veterans benefits bill.
The circumstances apparently paved the way for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to announce an agreement on the Senate floor.
Former service members who were victims of sexual violence told a Senate panel on Wednesday that military commanders should not be involved in decisions about sexual assault cases. Their views reflected those of Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who convened the panel to promote a bill she is pushing that she said would help solve the problem.
Jeremiah Arbogast, who was a lance corporal in the Marines, said he tried to kill himself after he was drugged and raped by his former commander, who was dishonorably discharged but served no jail time and did not have to register as a sex offender.
“The belief system about rape must change within the armed forces, and it will only change when the perpetrators are consistently prosecuted and no longer given leniency in their sentencing by their commanders,” he said.
When Jeremiah Arbogast was a lance corporal, he was drugged and then raped by his boss, a fellow Marine.
Mr. Arbogast taped a wire to himself in 2001 and recorded a confession during a confrontation with the boss, who ultimately received a dishonorable discharge but no jail time. The jury cited the boss’s 23 years of service in declining to lock him behind bars.
Once out of the Marines, the rapist failed to register as a sex offender, as he had been directed to do. He also scraped the tips of his finger pads, to erase fingerprints, Arbogast testified Wednesday before a Senate Armed Services subcommittee. Today, Arbogast added, he has no idea where the man who raped him is – a situation that, along with the trauma of the crime itself, prompted a discharge from the Marines for post-traumatic stress disorder.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says her efforts on addressing military sexual assault inspiring a plot point in the new season of “House of Cards” doesn’t trivialize the cause, bur rather amplifies it.
“It’s another vehicle for victims’ stories to be heard,” the Democrat told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” on Wednesday.
If you have yet to see the second season, possible spoilers ahead: In an episode of the Netflix series, Claire Underwood, portrayed by Robin Wright, quotes a military brochure on sexual assault prevention during a meeting with Joint Chiefs representatives.
Two former military service members, Defense Department officials, and mental health professionals testified at a hearing on the relationship between military sexual assault, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide.
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish is featured in this article from Stars and Stripes:
Groups that advocate for sexual assault victims and have long been severe critics of the military justice system laud the program.
“The Special Victim Counsel program is a huge success,” Nancy Parrish, president of the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, said in an email. “We praise the Air Force for leading the way by creating, and then defending the program.”
The program faced fierce opposition from defense attorneys who said the presence of SVCs in the process stacked the deck against the accused and violated the constitutional right to a fair trial. Fitzsimmons pointed out that defense lawyers have learned that when a victim wants the charges dropped, “the SVC can be your friend.”
A fellow Marine drugged and raped him but served no prison time after conviction because the court admired the assailant’s 23 years of service, a military sexual assault victim told a Senate committee on Wednesday.
Then it got worse, former Lance Cpl. Jeremiah Arbogast told legislators. He was ostracized at his command and medically retired in 2006 as a result of mental health problems stemming from the attack. Then he was pushed by the Department of Veterans Affairs toward counseling groups full of men damaged by combat trauma.
Among that group, he was afraid to open up about being raped by another man. Suffering from crushing depression and post-traumatic stress, Arbogast felt he had nowhere to turn except suicide.
Obviously, there are different reasons to explain each and every suicide but, somewhere in the mix, is the impact of sexual assault and the woeful way the Pentagon tends to handle victims.
“Heath Phillips, a constituent of mine, shared his experience with me recently,” Gillibrand said. “Heath grew up in a family that was devoted to the military. He joined the Navy shortly after he turned 17 and was excited to be part of the Navy family. When he reported to his duty station after boot camp, there was no one there to register him so they told him he’d have to come back.”
“He met a couple of other sailors from the ship and went into New York City with them. They went out drinking and he blacked out, and when he came to, the other sailors were sexually assaulting him. They threatened him and told him no one would believe him. He went back to the ship, where he reported the assault, only to be told that it was his fault because he had been drinking and that he was lucky to not be in trouble for underage drinking.”
The Army has disqualified 588 soldiers as sexual assault counselors, recruiters and drill sergeants for infractions ranging from sexual assault to child abuse to drunken driving, USA TODAY has learned.
The number of disqualified soldiers from what are called “positions of trust” is 10 times higher than the initial number the Army reported last summer after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered that troops in sensitive positions be screened for previous criminal or unethical behavior. The Army suspended 55 soldiers last summer after an initial review. Then investigators combed through more records of 20,000 others and disqualified 588 soldiers in total.
Hagel called for the review in May after a Pentagon study found troops reported that incidents of unwanted sexual contact had risen 35% from 2010 to 2012. Hagel has “been exceedingly clear about the need to continue stamping out sexual assault from our ranks,” said his spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby.
Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee Members Heather Pitcovich and Jessica Hinves are featured in this piece from Vogue magazine. This is the first time Heather has shared her story publicly.
Pitcovich said she eventually agreed to meet the officer at a bar near her home. “When I asked who was going to be there, he named a bunch of other senior people,” she told me. Later that night, she awoke at her house with a vague memory of getting sick and needing to be taken home. As her head slowly cleared, she said, she realized she was naked, and the officer was on top of her. “I couldn’t move,” she said. “I was trying to process what was going on.” Pitcovich said it took her months to recall another detail from that evening: the men she had been with laughing at the far end of the bar while a round of drinks was prepared. She became convinced she’d been drugged. She said she filed a report, and eventually, after a contentious Article 32 hearing—a prerequisite to a military trial—negotiated an agreement with the defendant, who accepted nonjudicial punishment for sexual harassment and fraternization. The Navy wouldn’t comment specifically on her case but referred me to Jill Loftus, director of the Navy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “I do hear a lot of testimony from victims of MST, and I would like to say I feel very badly for them . . . those are victims of a process that is very different from a process we now have,” said Loftus. “We take it very seriously now.”
Paul McHale is a former member of Congress (1993-99), former assistant secretary of defense (2003-09), and a retired Marine colonel with 33 years of active and reserve service. He wrote a piece for Philly.com in support of the Military Justice Improvement Act.
Majority Leader Harry Reid recently announced that within the next few weeks, the Senate will vote on the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). This legislation, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), already has the public support of more than half the Senate, and it is closing in on the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. If enacted, it will be the most significant military justice reform in many decades. Basic principles of sound troop leadership and due process argue strongly for passage.
To begin, a little history. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) currently entrusts to commanding officers the decision whether to prosecute cases of alleged sexual assault. Gillibrand’s legislation was motivated by an obvious and recurring failure of that status quo. Over the past several decades, it has become increasingly clear that some commanders are unable – in more than a few cases, unwilling – to make these decisions ethically and responsibly.
A recent Associated Press analysis described the current prosecutorial system as “chaotic.” If anything, that description is charitable.
A day after Sen. Jerry Moran, blocked votes on bills meant to address sexual assault in the military, the Kansas Republican apparently has signed on to support at least one of the measures.
Moran, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, objected on Monday to a request to have a speedy debate and vote on bills offered by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), saying he wanted a vote on sanctions against Iran as a condition for agreeing.
It only takes one senator to object to such requests, and Moran’s move at least stalled progress on the bills, which their sponsors say will help curtail rampant sexual abuse in the armed services.
There are days when I am slightly inclined to think that the United States Air Force is, at best, not quite evil. Most days I think that those who wear light blue are evil. Forgive me. I am an infantryman of the United States Army, and for at least the better part of three decades I have swallowed the Kool-Aid of my service that the USAF is just one slight step removed from the anti-deity of your choice.
This even extended into my education and then perceptions as a professor at West Point, where we cast stones at our USAF Academy counterparts. See, at West Point we are very much about academic rigor. This is why you see some of the harshest criticisms of the US Army in the past coming from the faculty of the Department of History at West Point. We are trained, essentially, as contrarians. Our contemptuous attitude, academically, towards the USAF is that, “We write history. They write propaganda and then add footnotes.”
A sexual-assault trial of a former Navy football player will go forward next month after defense attorneys failed to persuade a military judge to dismiss the case.
The judge, Col. Daniel Daugherty, has yet to issue a formal decision, but he outlined his views Monday to attorneys for midshipman Joshua Tate of Nashville and to lawyers for the alleged victim. Tate’s attorneys sought dismissal, claiming a lack of evidence in the case as well as bias on the part of the U.S. Naval Academy superintendent, who wields broad authority over the matter.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) have championed sweeping reforms on how the military addresses sexual assault, but to date, they’ve run into a series of legislative roadblocks. But they’re not done and the next phase of their efforts is poised to begin anew in the Senate, perhaps as early as next week.
Roll Call reports that some GOP senators are willing to consider moving on the Gillibrand/McCaskill reforms, but they’re looking for something in return.