Boxer Press Conference Remarks by Protect Our Defenders Communications Director Brian Purchia


Stacey, thank you! Your courage in coming forward to share your story, to talk about your assault, and the retaliation you faced is important. It will make a difference. You continue to serve our country by speaking for service members who are victims of this violent crime and are too afraid to report.

Our military justice system is broken — the military has had decades to fix this. They haven’t.

If a commander chooses to ignore a victim trying to report, refuses to move forward with an investigation, reduces a charge, lessens a sentence or sets aside a conviction, regardless of how egregious the offense or how strong the evidence, there is little recourse and no penalty for the commander.

My name is Brian Purchia. I am the Communications Director for Protect Our Defenders, an organization dedicated to eradicating the epidemic of sexual assault in the U.S. Military, and ensuring adequate care and support for survivors of military sexual assault.

It seems that almost daily we learn of new sexual abuse scandals in our armed forces. The time for fundamental reforms are long past due.

Thanks to Senator Boxer, Senators Gillibrand, Collins and others — for the first time we have real traction in the Senate with bipartisan legislation that addresses the core problem.

Currently, the United States Military has a system of justice which gives commanders unfettered power to decide whether to administer justice in sexual assault cases.

Far too often commanders are conflicted. That an assault occurred on their watch reflects poorly on them and their careers. Therefore too many cases are swept under the rug.

Perpetrators frequently outrank their victims. Therefore commanders are often biased. They trust the people they know best, the higher ranking, more respected and highly valued soldiers.

Fifty-percent of victims report the perpetrator is of higher rank and 23 percent of victims’ report the perpetrator is in their chain of command.

Of victims who chose not to report, 47 percent indicated fear of retaliation or reprisal as a reason for not reporting. And 62 percent of victims who did report indicate they were retaliated against professionally or administratively.

Commanders must no longer be permitted to interfere with victim reporting and judicial proceedings.

The great cost of this epidemic to our prestige both at home and abroad is starting to sink in.

The President has spoken out and we have a new Secretary of Defense who is signaling a willingness to consider real change. But, change will not come easily.

We need every American to join Senator Boxer and Stacey in demanding fundamental reform.

Many survivors, both veterans and active duty have bravely and selflessly began sharing their stories about the brutality and the negative, heavy fisted responses from their chain of command. Victims, like Stacey are describing how their chain of command let them down – how they were prevented from reporting — investigations were shut down — prosecutions few and convictions rare.

The reforms put forth in Senator Boxer’s bill are crucial to protecting victims from bias and intimidation, and will give them a fighting chance to achieve justice and prevent further attacks. The authority to decide which cases go to trial, and to determine the ultimate outcome of a court-martial, must be taken out of the chain of command.

Protect Our Defenders would like to thank Senator Boxer, Stacey and all those demanding change. Thank you.