FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, firstname.lastname@example.org
*** PRESS RELEASE ***
AP INVESTIGATION EXPOSES DYSFUNCTIONAL MILITARY JUSTICE SYSTEM: RAPISTS RECEIVING NO PUNISHMENT, COMMANDERS FAILING TO PROSECUTE SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES
Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Board Member Assaulted By Commanding Officer in Japan Responds to Report; Non-Profit Tells Congress Justice Should Not Be Filibustered — Victims and Their Families Deserve a Vote on Military Justice Improvement Act
Washington DC – On Sunday, the Associated Press released a new report revealing in shocking detail the military’s flawed and insufficient handling of over 1,000 sex crimes that were reported by service members stationed in Japan between 2005 and 2013. The investigation reveals “a pattern of random and inconsistent judgments” that confirm the urgent need for fundamental reform of the broken military justice system. The story points directly to cases where commanders refused to move forward to courts-martial even after an Article 32 preliminary hearing produced a recommendation to prosecute.
Just one example of the persistent and pervasive attitudes towards these cases as shown in the report is the case of Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee Member Stacey Thompson. After joining the Marines at age 17, Thompson was stationed in Okinawa, Japan where she was assaulted by her commanding officer. While her rapist was allowed to separate from the Marines during an active investigation and never faced charges for his crime, Stacey was threatened with retaliatory charges and forced to end her career.
At a press conference in support of the Military Justice Improvement Act last week, Stacey called on Congress to support common sense reform to remove the decision to prosecute rape and sexual assault cases from a conflicted and often-biased chain of command, and put it into the hands of independent military prosecutors. Last year, Stacey joined Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in Los Angeles to share her story for the first time.
Today, Stacey Thompson released the following statement:
“As a Veteran of the Marine Corps who served on active duty in Okinawa Japan, I am deeply disturbed by the current findings of military sexual crime cases in Japan between 2005 and 2013. This new report from the Associated Press further exemplifies the need to implement a fair and impartial legal system. This pattern of sexual deviant behavior and crime within our military has and will continue to increase if congress does not act immediately to meaningfully change the system, which has overwhelmingly produced a fear of retaliation for so many victims of sexual assault.
“How many more years will service members have to face an unsafe workplace before Congress begins to understand the moral obligation they have to prevent this kind of negligence and abuse of power? What is it going to take for them to recognize the need for fundamental reform? The rape of one more service member who is then denied justice because the responsibility of prosecution is left in the hands of the chain of command, is one rape too many.
“As a nation we have come so far in the fight for equality for those that wish to serve in the United States Military. Equality of service should not equate to an inequality of justice. We cannot continue to plausibly deny that the current military justice system is failing to provide victims with a fair and objective process. Now is the time for Congress to find the courage to honor those who serve at home and abroad, and pass fundamental reform as a tangible commitment to protect and defend the service members of this country.”
Protect our Defenders President Nancy Parrish also released a statement:
“Far from being the exception, the misconduct and mishandling of the cases in Japan, investigated by AP is commonplace and rampant throughout the service branches. Protect Our Defenders hears daily from service members and veterans who have had their cases swept under the rug, and who have faced retaliation. The military justice system still protects the often higher-ranking perpetrator over the lower ranking victim. According to the annual Pentagon SAPRO report, in 2012, 50 percent of victims state the perpetrator was of higher rank, 25 percent of victims indicated the offender was someone in their chain of command.
“In 2012 alone, an estimated 26,000 men and women in the military were victims of rape, sexual assault and other sex crimes. Less than ten percent of those crimes were reported, and of those few who did, 62 percent of female victims stated they were retaliated against, and fifty percent claimed they did not report the crime because they believed nothing would be done.
“Service members do not yet enjoy a professional, fair, and objective justice system based on evidence and the rule of law. Instead they face a justice system that lacks objectivity, transparency, and accountability. A system controlled by one individual who is too often biased and conflicted. A system that too often fails to prosecute or adequately punish perpetrators while persecuting victims. Congress has an opportunity fix this by passing real reform that would give the decision to prosecute to trained, objective military prosecutors. This is a chance to ensure that the men and women who have signed up to serve our country are afforded a shot at justice. Every Senator should stand in support of justice for our service members and vote to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). Service members deserve a justice system equal to the system afforded to the civilians they protect.”
Military brass continue to repeat their decades-old promises of “zero tolerance,” as countless military sexual abuse scandals—from Tailhook to Aberdeen to Lackland—and scathing investigative reports continue to surface. (See: They Accused superiors of assault & harassment: Now their careers are over, The U.S. military’s enemy within, Twice Betrayed, Chain of Command). This new AP report just further illustrates that the core issue has not been addressed.
The details released Sunday simply confirm what survivors and advocates already know: military brass say they finally “get” the problem, however “good order and discipline” remains severely undermined by a broken justice system and leadership still allows a systematic culture of rape, sexual harassment and misogyny to continue unchecked.
Associated Press: Documents Reveal Chaotic Military Sex-Abuse Record
Stacey Thompson, Veteran and Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee Member Calls on Congress to Pass Military Justice Improvement Act
Times Union: Military sex assault survivors speak out for Gillibrand reform bill
Washington Post: Pentagon investigations point to military system that promotes abusive leaders
National Journal: Why the Senate May Do Nothing About Sexual Assaults in the Military
Associated Press: Stacey Thompson, Military Rape Victim, Says Retaliation Prevalent For Those Who Speak Out
Bloomberg News: Marine Says Her Rapist Went Free as Senator Demands a Crackdown
Orange County Register: For Marine, sexual assault was a career killer
About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders is a human rights organization. We seek to honor, support and give voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been sexually assaulted while serving their country, and re-victimized by the military adjudication system – a system that often blames the victim and fails to prosecute the perpetrator. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at www.protectourdefenders.com or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ProtectOurDefenders or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ProtectRDfnders.
Protect Our Defenders partners with Attorney Susan Burke, of Katz, Marshall & Banks LLP to advance lawsuits filed against the DoD and service academies for repeatedly ignoring rape, sexual assault and harassment, failing to prosecute perpetrators and retaliating against the victim.