Lackland News Update: August 22, 2012

The latest on Lackland: Email Digest 8/22/2012.

News has been breaking almost daily this summer about the Lackland Air Force Base sexual abuse scandal, and to help get you up to date we’ve put a news roundup together of the main developments so you can quickly see the full story in one place. Once you’ve had a chance to read our news digest below, please help us spread the word about this scandal by sharing this page.

What is Lackland? Everyone who enters the Air Force goes through basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, located outside San Antonio, Texas.

The story: On July 1, 2012, news broke that 31 trainees said they were sexually assaulted while serving at Lackland Air Force Base. We announced that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

The scandal widens: 3 weeks later, the number of victims climbed to 38 and the number of instructors being investigated internally rose to 15. Based on emails and calls we receive daily from survivors, we know that this problem is long standing and that 38 victims is sadly a fraction of the number of trainees sexually assaulted at Lackland.

The military’s response: 2 instructors have received sentences so far. One received sentencing for 20 years, potentially shorter for good behavior. A second instructor received 30 days of military lock up, after which he will be permitted to remain in the military – a travesty of justice that infuriated survivors.

Major General Edward Rice at Lackland questioned whether Lackland is indicative of widespread assaults throughout the military, but then backed off, claiming rape in the military is a “localized” problem. The newspaper which broke the scandal just published our op-ed about why Rice’s contradictions indicate that we need an external investigation.

Demands for a congressional investigation: Paula-Coughlin-Puopolo, the whistleblower from the Tailhook scandal of 1991, decided she wanted to start a petition with us to get to the bottom of the military’s broken justice system. Paula’s petition asks Rep. Buck McKeon, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, to hold a congressional investigation on the Lackland criminal scandal to protect our Lackland trainees. NBC News, ABC News, Stars and Stripes, and others covered the launch of Paula’s petition.

Watch a snippet of the Capitol Hill press conference and petition delivery:

Why an open investigation? The military’s previous internal efforts to investigate military sexual assaults have failed. Lackland is only the latest high-profile case of military sexual assaults. It’s time for Congress to do its job of military oversight and hold an open investigation. Along with a petition, hundreds of people have also participated in our Twitter campaign to “#AskBuck” for an investigation.

After 10,000 citizens signed Paula’s petition, Paula and four other survivors of military sexual assault went to Washington to participate in a Protect Our Defenders press conference and deliver the petitions to Congress demanding for an open hearing ahead of a closed-door briefing. Our event received extensive media attention, including ABC News, Reuters, Bloomberg News, The Huffington Post, and many others.

Media Response News outlets published powerful op-eds echoing our sentiments. The Nation asked, Why Won’t Congress Investigate Lackland? while The San Francisco Chronicle asked, Can the Military Solve Its Rape Problem?  The San Antonio Express said Abuses Call for Inquiry by Congress, and the St Louis Post-Dispatch wrote “Military Justice is an oxymoron when it comes to women in the armed services.”

Yet so far Congress has only held an inadequate closed-door briefing.

Lackland is not an isolated incident. For decades servicemen and women have suffered from widespread sexual assaults and continue to do so at bases and ships all over the world. A congressional hearing could investigate for signs of widespread sexual abuse. Our elected officials must now act to get to the bottom of the military’s rape crisis.

If you haven’t signed Paula’s petition yet demanding an investigation, please click here to take action today.

We’ll continue to keep you updated as more details unfold.

Nancy Parrish
Founder, Protect Our Defenders

P.S. This week we launched a new feature on our website. Our news page is now The Protect Our Defenders News Blog. We will be featuring guest blog posts on timely news topics – a way for you to hear directly from survivors about military sexual assault news. We welcome submissions.