FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 25, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, firstname.lastname@example.org
*** STATEMENT ***
PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION AFTER REPORTS OF INTIMIDATION AND THREATENED RETALIATION AGAINST VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AT FORT LEONARD WOOD
Washington DC – Today, Protect Our Defenders called on Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to launch an independent investigation after multiple allegations of intimidation and threats of retaliation for reporting sexual assault surfaced during the court martial of a drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood, who was convicted of sexually assaulting and abusing eight female soldiers he was training.
Army Staff Sgt. Angel M. Sanchez was found guilty of four counts of sexual assault and six counts of abusive sexual contact at a court-martial Wednesday afternoon. He was also found guilty of several lesser charges, and had already pleaded guilty to wrongfully engaging in conduct of a sexual nature with three trainees.
During the drill sergeant’s sentencing testimony, one of the victims said that a Lt. Colonel had told her and other trainees not to report if they were sexually assaulted. “I have issues of trusting those who are in charge of me,” she said, after a Lieutenant Colonel told her “not to make any more allegations.”
Earlier in the week, another female service member testified under oath that she and others were told by their Sergeant Major that their company would not graduate “if any more sexual assault cases” were reported.
Today, Protect Our Defenders President, Nancy Parrish, released the following statement:
“The idea that that a Lieutenant Colonel and Sergeant Major could order large numbers of troops not to report sexual offenses is outrageous. If true it makes a mockery of the Pentagon’s supposed efforts to change the climate and culture. What more would the President and Congress need to see to take control of the situation and fix the broken military justice system.
“There must be a thorough, independent investigation to determine whether this testimony is accurate. This appears to be a blatant attempt by superiors to silence victims of sexual assault and bystanders. If these allegations are true, both the Lieutenant Colonel and Sergeant, who ordered victims and by standers not to report sexual assault, should be fired.
“By the Pentagon’s own numbers—less than 10 percent of victims choose to report their assaults. When stories like this emerge, we are reminded of why victims do not report. This is not an isolated incident: in 2012, 60 percent of victims who came forward faced retaliation. As this report illustrates, it is far too common for victims of sexual assault to be threatened or punished for coming forward and reporting a sexual crime.
“In light of these troubling sworn allegations, we call on Secretary Hagel to immediately begin an independent investigation into whether trainees were discouraged from reporting sexual assault incidents through orders and threats, as well as allegations that a culture of sexual abuse, harassment, and intimidation exist on Fort Leonard Wood.
“Nobody should have to go through this sort of intimidation or retaliation for reporting a crime. It is time for Secretary Hagel to take real action and fix this broken system. Our troops deserve a professional and impartial justice system. A system equal to the one provided the civilians they protect.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Former drill sergeant found guilty in sexual misconduct case at Fort Leonard Wood
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Army guardsman: Superior said more sexual assault reports could threaten graduation
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Witnesses describe culture of sex abuse at Ft. Leonard Wood court-martial hearing
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Ft. Leonard Wood court-martial highlights sex crisis in military
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, Burke PLLC 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.