Protect Our Defenders Testifies At Senator Gillibrand’s Press Conference Announcing New Legislation to Reform Military Justice

  1. Read Protect Our Defenders statement on Gillibrand Bill PR 051613 (below)
  2. Read testimony from Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee Member Jennifer Norris
  3. Read testimony from Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee Member Brian Lewis
  4. Read testimony from Protect Our Defenders Policy Advisor Miranda Petersen


*Military sexual assault survivors and Protect Our Defenders President, Nancy Parrish are available for interviews.

**If you would like remarks from Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee Members (Brian Lewis and Jennifer Norris) who will be speaking at Thursday’s press conference, please email:

May 16, 2013 Contact: Brian Purchia,

*** STATEMENT  ***


Senate-House Bill Would Remove the Chain of Command From Decision Making Over Whether Serious Crimes Are Prosecuted

Military sexual assault incidents skyrocketed 34.5% — from 19,300 assaults in 2011 to 26,300 in 2012; Reporting rate drops to 9.8%; Conviction rate dropped to 0.9 percent in 2012; 47 % indicated fear of retaliation or reprisal as a reason for not reporting

WASHINGTON, DC – On Thursday, Protect Our Defenders and military rape survivors, TSgt Jennifer Norris, USAF Retired and Brian Lewis, Former Petty Officer Third Class, US Navy were proud to stand with U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Representatives Dan Benishek (R-MI) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Representatives Richard Hanna (D-NY) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to announce new comprehensive bipartisan, bicameral legislation to reform the military justice system.

In recent weeks, the U.S. military has been rocked by a series of scandals and horrifying new numbers from the Pentagon that show sexual assaults are up 34%. For decades military leaders have failed to implement fundamental reforms to end the epidemic of sexual assault in the military and root out serial predators in the ranks. Two striking examples of the broken military justice system include Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin setting aside the sexual assault conviction of Lt. Col. Wilkerson at Aviano Air Base and Lt. Gen. Helms similarly overturning the sexual assault conviction of Capt. Herrera at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Earlier this year, Brian Lewis testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the military sexual assault crisis and Jennifer Norris testified in front of the House Armed Services Committee on the ongoing sexual abuse scandal at Lackland Air Force Base.

Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish released the following statement:

“Commanders must no longer be permitted to interfere with victim reporting and judicial proceedings. Fifty-percent of victims report the perpetrator is of higher rank and 23% of victims’ report the perpetrator is in their chain of command.

The reforms put forth in this bill are crucial to protecting victims from bias and intimidation, and will give them a fighting chance to achieve justice and prevent further attacks. The authority to decide which cases go to trial, and to determine the ultimate outcome of a court-martial, must be taken out of the chain of command.

Protect Our Defenders applauds Senator Gillibrand, Senator Boxer, Senator Collins, Senator Johanns and all the other elected officials that have supported this legislation for their leadership.

Currently, the United States Military has a system of justice which gives commanders unfettered power to decide when and if to administer justice in sexual assault cases. In recent high profile cases, we have seen commanders act unilaterally to overturn jury convictions in sexual assault cases. This is a system fraught with personal bias, conflicts of interest, abuse of authority, and a low regard for victims who report sexual assault.

As Americans, we know what a justice system is supposed to look like—and we can recognize when a decision is made that is fundamentally unfair. When one commander with no legal training and often a personal connection to the perpetrator is allowed to ignore the findings of a jury and declare a convicted perpetrator as innocent, lessen his sentence, or shut down a case before it ever gets to trial, we know there is something wrong with the system.

When this legislation becomes law commanders like Lt. General Craig Franklin and General Susan Helms, who both ignored the findings of their hand picked jury and went against their legal advisers opinions, will no longer be able to erase sexual assault convictions with the swipe of their pen.

A strong indication of how serious the military leadership and President Obama are taking the ongoing crisis will be whether they begin to actually take action against senior leaders that are part of the problem and embrace the fundamental and necessary reforms in this bill.”

USA Today: Why the military hasn’t stopped sexual abuse

PBS: Why the Military Has a Sexual Assault Problem

New York Times: Revisiting the Military’s Tailhook Scandal

LA Times: Military sex crime record should bring shame,0,4143771.story

Arizona Republic: Protest planned over base transfer of sex-scandal figure

Wired: Air Force Chief of Sexual-Assault Prevention Arrested on Sexual Battery Charges

National Journal: The Enemy Within

Protect Our Defenders petition Calling on Sec. Hagel to Remove Lt. Gen. Franklin and Lt. Col. Wilkerson:

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 or on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at