Here is a recap of top stories about stopping military sexual violence against service members and civilians.
Advisory Board Member’s Veterans Day Message: Stand Tall and Proud
- Protect Our Defenders Advisory Board member, Terri Odom wrote a message to her fellow veteran survivors:
“As I take a crisp autumn stroll through our neighborhood, I count the green lights. Green lights on a home symbolize that either a veteran lives there or are a show of support for our veterans. I feel a sense of pride. Sadly, too often, survivors of military sexual trauma have a challenging time self-identifying as a veteran. Most of us did not choose to end our military career. Most of us did not have a pleasant separation from active duty status. We were victims of violent crimes and many survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) were not offered much, if any, support.”
Congressional Briefing Focuses on Male Sexual Assault in the Military
- In October, the Congressional Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus hosted a briefing to inform Congress about male sexual assaults in the military, and to give male survivors a chance to be heard.
- The event was organized by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH) and POD Advisory Board Member and President and Co-Founder of Mr. MST, Brian Lewis. Yelena Tsilker, Program & Policy Associate at POD, also discussed the support services POD offers to survivors through our Pro Bono Network.
- This hearing brought attention to the unique experiences and needs of male survivors, and the work still needed to address stigma and protect male survivors from retaliation.
Pro Bono Network Attorney Pens Open Letter to Survivors
- Ryan Guilds, an attorney for POD’s Pro Bono Network, published an open letter to sexual assault survivors in the Air Force that includes advice for reporting their attack and what to expect from the broken military justice system.
- In the letter, Guilds explained the many issues that survivors should be prepared to face if they decide to come forward. More importantly, he tells survivors that the ultimate verdict, whether guilty or innocent, does not define who the survivor is:
“A guilty verdict does not make the pain and anger of the assault completely go away. And an acquittal does not mean the victim was lying. Those who are able to come forward, however, are beacons of hope and an inspiration to those around them. Certainly that was the case with my client, who had countless opportunities to give up but never did because, as she told me, she believed it was important to do what she could to help other sexual assault survivors.” [Huffington Post]
Protect Our Defenders Founder: No Improvement in Handling of Military Sexual Assault
- In a conversation with the Observer (Sarasota, Florida), POD founder Nancy Parrish discussed why she started POD and how little the handling of sexual trauma in the military has changed over the past two decades. Nancy said:
“We Americans are fair-minded people. When we witness injustice and suffering, we stand on the side of fairness. Sexual assault in the military is devastating our troops. It’s a greater risk factor for post-traumatic stress disorder than combat. It’s costing our country $3.7 billion a year. So there was no attention to this issue in 2011, and I wanted to help.” [The Observer]
Another Disturbing Story Highlights Need for Military Justice Reform
- Earlier this month, an airman was found not guilty of sexual assault after his case was transferred from Europe to Washington. This transfer followed a three-star general’s failure to consult with the victim before deciding not to proceed with a court-martial.
- I issued a statement critical of how the military justice system handled the sexual assault case, which has been in the national spotlight for years:
“This case is Exhibit A of the devastating consequences of our failed military justice system. Due to multiple errors committed by the command-driven justice system, both parties have had their lives on hold for more than three years awaiting a verdict. The survivor in this case endured a slew of avoidable hearings and appeals for over three years…An empowered independent military prosecutor based justice system would have ensured the administration of swift and efficient justice, something all of our military service members deserve.”[Air Force Times]
Consent: It’s Not That Complicated
- Last week, the Thames Valley Police Department released an amazingly simple PSA, “Tea and Consent.” The video is short and effectively explains sexual consent. The video is based on a blog post from earlier this year.
Thanks for your support. We will keep you updated in the coming months.