In an interview with Yahoo News, Protect Our Defenders President Don Christensen discussed the military’s failure to fix the broken justice system and end the epidemic of sexual assault. Don also talks about his decision to leave the United States Air Force, breaking a military tradition that has been a part of his family for over 150 years.
“‘One of the dirty little secrets of military justice is what happens in that courtroom,’ Christensen said, ‘when you have the prosecution on one side of the courtroom and the defense on the other side, and a victim is sitting on the witness stand telling the jury what happened, and she looks out over that courtroom, she looks behind her rapist and she’s going to see her commander sitting behind her rapist. She’s going to see her first sergeant sitting behind her rapist. She’s going to see her squadron leader sitting behind her rapist. That’s what we have to overcome.’
“That’s what happened in one recent case at Ellsworth Air Force Base, he said, in which a female pilot, a major, accused a captain in her squadron of sexually assaulting her.
“At the trial — prosecuted by Christensen’s office — ‘the commander testified for the accused. Her fellow fliers testified for the accused.’ The captain was still convicted, but as he was awaiting sentence in the courtroom, with the major present, Christensen said, the squadron commander ‘gives the guy who sexually assaulted her a hug.’ The clear message to other victims, he said, is ‘don’t report. Don’t report.'”