Twelve survivors of sexual abuse in the military have bravely come forward to launch a national campaign asking President Obama to declare that after 20 years of “zero tolerance,” a year filled with news of retaliation against victims, and survey estimates showing no progress, it’s time to change the military justice system.
The photographs of the survivors are gripping and the stories are harrowing, yet they demonstrate incredible resiliency.
Ciera is one of the twelve in the campaign. Ciera explains that after she was sexually assaulted, instead of taking her case to trial, her superiors retaliated against her, and then recommended that she be discharged from the United States Air Force. Ciera comes from a big military family where multiple members have served.
Like Ciera, almost 2/3 of victims who come forward are retaliated against – just for reporting the crime.
Many Americans assume that service members, if raped, have access to a fair system of justice. But in the military, the rapist’s commander has the power to decide if the case goes to trial, what the charges will be, and can hand-pick the jury. The current military justice system is not fair and it is not impartial.
That is why we’re asking you to stand with victims to make sure that rape is not an “occupational hazard” for Americans serving our military.
Last year, President Obama said that he had victims’ backs. He gave the Department of Defense one year to show progress. But last week, the Pentagon released a report showing that estimates of sexual assaults are at the same level they were 4 years ago. And the rate of retaliation against victims, 62%, is the same it was last year. The news over the past 12 months has been filled with one scandal after another involving retaliation against those who report sexual assaults.
The time is up. After 20 years of “zero tolerance,” it’s time to change the military justice system.