Protect Our Defenders News Blog


Lackland Hearing Update from Paula Coughlin

Last August, I, along with fellow survivors Jenny McClendon, Brian Lewis, Jennifer Norris, and Jessica Hinves traveled to our nation’s capitol to demand the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) open an investigation into the military sexual abuse scandal in history, at Lackland Air Force Base. We delivered a petition signed by over 13,000 supporters.

As you know, we recently learned HASC would hold a hearing on January 23rd.  Since then, we have pressed to include as witnesses Lackland active duty personnel who are victims, and veterans who survived sexual assault, including male survivors, along with independent experts in victim treatment and the military justice system. Only one of our recommendations was included.

We were notified that TSgt Jennifer Norris, USAF Ret., a POD Advocacy Board member and a victim’s advocate for the Military Rape Crisis Center would be invited by the committee to speak at the hearing. She has been given five minutes to make remarks, to be followed by questions. While Jennifer did not ask for this task, she accepted the responsibility. Jennifer has our heartfelt appreciation and ultimate confidence that she will convey the true intent of all supporters: to demand concrete solutions to end the epidemic of rape in the military.

The hearing will be held in 2118 Rayburn House Office Building at ten o’clock AM.

Prior to the hearing, at 9 AM (please arrive by 8:45 AM), we will hold a press conference in 2456 Rayburn. Protect Our Defenders will have survivors offer insight and highlight the issues before the congressional hearing.

Seating at the hearing is extremely limited, with only 16 seats for the public. We have requested and received commitment that there will be an overflow room at 2212 Rayburn, to view the hearing via monitor. The hearing will also be streamed live on the HASC website. Please join us and show your support.

Following the hearing, the media may be interested in speaking with some of you and we will again gather to debrief in room 2456 Rayburn, as our mission is not complete when this hearing is done.

Congress needs our help: to date DoD and Congress have failed to effectively address this crisis. Twenty years ago, when I realized the Navy was covering up abuse at the Tailhook convention, I spoke out, and no one was prosecuted.

Since Tailhook we have seen repeated scandals, military leadership investigating itself, congressional hearings, reforms announced, laws passed, then more scandal: all to little avail. Given the restrictions imposed by the committee leadership, this hearing could just be more of the same.

Regardless, we should be proud of our effort and this event will help educate the media and the American people—they are steadily becoming our allies in the fight for transformational change. We will continue to build our movement, press on and turn our attention toward the Commander in Chief.

Stay in contact, show your support, and know we honor each one of your stories, your sacrifices, and your pain.

Regards in the New Year,

Paula Coughlin, Former LT, US Navy
Advocacy Board, Protect Our Defenders