We’re starting a monthly news roundup in 2015. From the first few days of the new year, military sexual assault has been front and center in the nation’s news.
Air Force retaliates against victims’ attorney
- Captain Maribel Jarzabek was a Special Victims Counsel (SVC) who posted comments on Sen. Gillibrand’s Facebook page expressing her support of military justice reform. The Air Force responded by opening a criminal investigation of Jarzabek for expressing “opinions online that could undermine public confidence in the Air Force,” as revealed by the Washington Post.
- POD President Don Christensen was quoted in the article: “It’s clear that if you support the current system and you do so publicly, then that’s something that’s considered praiseworthy and can get you promoted,” he said. “But if you oppose it and say so, you’ll get criminally prosecuted.”
- Stories like these “clearly show much more needs to be done” to improve the military justice system, said an Oakland Tribune editorial.
- And before Jarzabek started working with victims, she said, “I did not believe the ‘Invisible War’ stories,” referencing the Academy Award-nominated documentary, reported a Washington Post op-ed.
Why our new president left the military
- POD’s new President, former Air Force Chief Prosecutor Colonel Don Christensen, explained why he left the military after over two decades to fight for victims of sexual assault. In describing his reaction to the case that moved him to retire, he said: “I turned to [a fellow prosecutor] and said, ‘We just lost military justice‘.” Christensen’s profile was featured on the Air Force Times cover.
Debate on military justice system will continue in 2015
- Sen Gillibrand will reintroduce the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) sometime this year, though the challenges MJIA faces are steep. “The debate over a commander’s role in the military justice system isn’t over,” says Stars and Stripes.
- Stars and Stripes also mentioned POD’s national advocacy campaign, directed to President Obama. We’re collecting signatures for the letter here.
- Congresswoman Jackie Speier was just appointed ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations. She said her appointment will be “a powerful tool in our ongoing fight to protect whistleblowers and prevent sexual assault in the military.”
- Finally, concerns have been raised about convicted sexual assault offenders who are released from the military but do not appear on public registries, as reported on PBS Newshour.
We’ll continue to keep you updated with monthly news roundups.