FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2013
Contact: Brian Purchia, , email@example.com
PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS ADVOCACY BOARD MEMBER JENNIFER NORRIS TO TESTIFY BEFORE CONGRESS ON LACKLAND SEXUAL ABUSE SCANDAL
Washington DC – The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has notified Protect Our Defenders that TSgt Jennifer Norris, USAF Ret., a Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Board member, Air Force veteran, national victim advocate with the Military Rape Crisis Center and sexual abuse survivor has been selected to testify in front of Congress next week about the ongoing sexual abuse scandal at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Late last year, Jennifer went to our nation’s capital ahead of a closed-door congressional hearing on the criminal scandal at Lackland with Tailhook whistleblower, Paula Coughlin-Puopolo, fellow military sexual assault survivors Brian Lewis, former sailor Jenny McClendon and Air Force veteran Jessica Hinves. Jessica was featured in the Oscar nominated film, The Invisible War. Her assailant was awarded the ‘Airman of the Year.” The veterans delivered more than 10,000 petitions to the Chairman of House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Los Angeles County) demanding an open hearing and investigation into Lackland.
“We are incredibly proud of Jennifer Norris and the other survivors that came forward to demand Congress do its job and hold open and complete hearings to get to the bottom of the ongoing sexual abuse scandal at Lackland Air Force Base. For more than 25 years, scandals of sexual violence within the military, cover up and abuse of authority have come to light, often due to brave service members, who risk their careers and wellbeing by coming forward,” said Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders. “This includes Tailhook in 1992, Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1996, the Air Force Academy in 2002, USMC Marine Barracks One, Washington in 2012 and the ongoing largest military sexual abuse scandal in history at Lackland Air Force Base. Military leadership has repeatedly investigated itself, punished well-publicized offenders, and released reports touting supposedly new reforms that have not and will not fundamentally fix the broken system. This crisis cannot be effectively addressed incrementally. Regardless of the reason, the chain of command is not making the right calls with these cases. It is time for Congress to put an end to this ‘silent’ epidemic.”
In July 2012, Paula started the online Lackland petition on Causes.com and Protect Our Defenders demanding Rep. McKeon open a congressional hearing about Lackland. So far at least 60 trainees at the Air Force’s sole recruiting center in San Antonio, Texas say they were raped, sexually assaulted or subject to other criminal offenses by their instructors. The Air Force’s new Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh III has told Congress, “what we have been doing is not working” to address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military.
Seventy-eight members of Congress also called on Rep. Buck McKeon to open a Lackland hearing. The military estimates that there are 19,000 military rapes and sexual assaults a year, but only 3,200 victims reported the attacks and out of those only 191 cases resulted in court martial conviction. The Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that there are now over a half a million veterans that have experienced military sexual trauma.
San Antonio Current: Advocates: Lackland hearings should spark reforms, not more empty promises
NBC News: Air Force sexual abuse trial gets underway
San Antonio Express-News: Lackland misdeeds are about abuse of power, not sex
WOAI News: Congress will Probe Lackland Sex Scandal
ABC News: Activists Demand Congress Hold Open Hearing on Air Force Sexual Assaults
Paula Coughlin-Puopolo’s petition demanding Congress investigates the Lackland sexual assault scandal can be viewed here:
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/ProtectOur
Protect Our Defenders supports 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.