May News Roundup: DC press conference, WaPo editorial, @potus Twitter campaign
Here’s the top news from the past month on our fight against sexual assault and harassment in the military.
New report on retaliation against victims
Two weeks ago, at a joint press conference in Washington, DC, Human Rights Watch and Protect Our Defenders announced the release of a report that found that service members who report sexual assault frequently experience retaliation that goes unpunished. [Reuters]
In response to the scathing report, I said, “Over and over, we hear from survivors that the retaliation was the worst part. They wish they hadn’t come forward.” [USA TODAY]
“This report affirms what we see daily, through our Pro Bono Network: servicemembers who face retaliation have nowhere within the system to turn, and know that most likely no one will be held accountable,” POD Program and Policy Director Miranda Petersen said. “This leaves survivors with two practical options: either suffer in silence, or leave the military.” [C-SPAN]
This report would not have been possible without the many survivors who shared their personal stories in the report and those who traveled to DC for its release. Many veterans and active duty survivors, both men and women, joined us the next day to testify at the Congressionally-appointed Judi
For a full list of the almost 50 news stories that covered the report, including live video, click here.
Washington Post Editorial
The Washington Post published an editorial calling on Congress to support Senator Gillibrand’s fundamental reform of the military justice system. They write: “A number of retired military officials, including those with experience handling these cases, such as former Air Force chief prosecutor Don Christensen, agree on the need for fundamental change. Mr. Christensen, now president of Protect Our Defenders, told us that the climate in which sexual harassment is seen as the norm won’t change as long as decisions about prosecution are made by those who create the climate…Considering that zero tolerance was first promised in 1992 by then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, it’s time to help fulfill that promise.” [Washington Post]
The Pentagon continues to discredit sexual assault survivors, this time suggesting that victims only think they are being retaliated against and that such “perceived retaliation” is a misunderstanding. [PBS Frontline]
POD launched an #EndVictimBlaming campaign calling on President Obama — who just joined Twitter — to address the military’s disgraceful attempts to smear victims. Over 200 people have tweeted so far. Join us and tweet @POTUS, email or call or write the White House.
Gillibrand Report on Civilians and Military Spouses
Senator Gillibrand released a new report based on findings from the four largest military bases in the country. Her review of 107 case files found high rates of assault against civilian women and military spouses. The fact that these two groups are not included in Pentagon surveys on sexual assault calls into question the true scale of the epidemic. [Associated Press]
Thank you for your support of this issue. I will keep you updated in the coming months.
Col Don Christensen (ret.), President, Protect Our Defenders
Former US Air Force Chief Prosecutor