Protect Our Defenders (POD) works to educate the public and policymakers on the crisis of sexual violence in the military. Founded in 2011, POD is the only national human rights organization solely dedicated to combatting the epidemic of sexual assault and harassment in the US military, preventing retaliation against victims, and ensuring justice and support for survivors. Survivors of rape and sexual assault encounter numerous obstacles in acquiring immediate and long-term care: they are frequently silenced, denied health care and discharged involuntarily.
POD operates as the leading voice for reforming the conflicted military justice system. Despite more than 25 years of Pentagon studies, task force recommendations and congressional hearings, rape and sexual assault within the military remain pervasive and sexual harassment remains commonplace. In 2014, no improvements were seen over 2010 levels for sexual assault and harassment. According to the Department of Defense, 20,000 service members experienced at least one sexual assault during 2014, a ratio of 1 in 20 women and 1 in 100 men. The vast majority of these cases went unreported. Fewer than 1 in 5 victims openly reported their assault. For those victims who did report, 62% experienced professional, social, or administrative retaliation or punishment from their commanders and their peers. At the same time, only 175 cases resulted in a conviction for a registerable sex offense, and charges were filed in just 38% of reported cases. In addition, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 14 men experienced sexual harassment in 2014.
While the military continues to resist fundamental reform, POD has made rapid, tangible progress by coalescing and mobilizing the survivor community, maintaining an active presence on Capitol Hill and in the media, providing victims with case assistance, and supporting legal challenges in military courts to procedures that harm victims. Our policy work includes organizing press conferences, bringing survivors to testify before Congress, meeting with members and their staff, and drafting proposals for legislative change. Through this comprehensive approach, we have made important progress while continuing to push for fundamental reform.
We urge concerned Americans to join our community, to create a unified voice in support of legislation to fundamentally change the way the Department of Defense deals with the injustices facing service members and veterans who have suffered military sexual trauma.