‘An Outrage’ – The President Addresses The Pentagon’s Latest Figures On Rape In The Military (VIDEO)

Military rape has increased by over 5000 per year… image @WarIsACrime

Military rape has increased by over 5000 per year… image @WarIsACrime

In an earlier Addicting Info piece, Rape Culture In The Military: Why Is It Being Tolerated?, I wrote about some of the statistics and subsequent military and legal actions taken in response to the staggering number of sexual assaults occurring in the military on a regular basis. Featured in that piece was a film called The Invisible War, which depicts several of the specific incidents that derailed the lives and careers of various military personnel; also included were details on the disturbing cases of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, found guilty of aggravated sexual assault in a jury verdict later overruled by a former commanding officer, as well as the case of Jeffrey Krusinski, head of the US Airforce’s Sexual Assault Prevention unit who’s been charged with sexual battery.

The prevailing question is not only why the number of sexual assaults in the military is so high (previously estimated at 19,000 annually, with a new Pentagon report raising that number to a startling 26,000), but why the military and government haven’t taken more urgent action to bring the perpetrators to justice and eradicate the culture of violence, entitlement and impunity in the service environment. Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, spoke on the issue in regards to the Wilkerson case, demanding a rescission of the right of commanding officers to overturn jury verdicts, but many believe that, while that is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough. After the latest Pentagon report was released earlier this week, the President included the issue of the metastasizing problem of military rape in a press conference, where he made clear his support of a group of bipartisan lawmakers focused on efforts to re-write outdated military laws on the subject. From the Huffington Post:

Valerie Jarrett, President Barack Obama’s senior adviser; Tina Tchen, chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, and other senior officials met Thursday morning with 16 Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate – 14 female lawmakers and two men, Turner and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio.

Jarrett chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Tchen is the executive director. Obama has said he has no tolerance for the problem and that the Pentagon must address it head-on. […]

The White House requested the meeting, and lawmakers expressed appreciation for the administration’s outreach in what they expect will be a collaborative effort.

Tuesday’s report from the Pentagon appears to have sparked the continuing and growing efforts to make significant changes in how sexual assault is dealt with in the military system. The adjusted number of 26,000 annual sexual assaults is clearly a tipping point (a point many believe should have occurred many thousands of rapes ago), spurring the creation of programs and projects intended to create better support and services for victims, stronger oversight regarding the behaviors of personnel, as well as inspections and intervention training designed to identify problems before they devolve to violence.

 “I feel that there is positive momentum on this issue,” said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, a participant in the White House meeting and co-sponsor of legislation. [… ]

Several of the lawmakers have been at the forefront on the issue of sexual assault in the uniformed services and have introduced legislation in Congress that suddenly is moving quickly.

“We must strengthen existing laws and policies so that perpetrators face justice and victims can come forward without fear of retribution and with confidence that they will receive the support, care, and justice they deserve,” another meeting participant, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said in a statement.

“This will be a coordinated response where before we had individual lawmakers – myself and Niki Tsongas working together, individual lawmakers working on solutions,” Turner said in an interview. [… ]

Turner and Tsongas are proposing stripping an officer’s authority to change or dismiss a court-martial conviction in major cases, such as sexual assault. Their bill would also require that an individual found guilty of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy and an attempt to commit any of those offenses be either dismissed or dishonorably discharged. [Source]

But given the culture of government in the year 2013, there remains the usual partisan dissonance, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, speaking out against the effort to strip commanding officers of their authority. Whether he is able to stir up support for his resistance to the efforts of Turner, Tsongas, Jarrett, and others, those watching the evolving debate and subsequent calls to action were heartened to hear the President step into the discussion very openly and candidly. When asked by a reporter his thoughts on the problem as well as the pending legislation, he had this to say (from video below):

“Sexual assault is an outrage, it is a crime. That’s true for society at large and if it’s happening inside our military, then whoever carries it out is betraying the uniform that they’re wearing. They may consider themselves patriots, but when you engage in this kind of behavior, that’s not patriotic, it’s a crime. And we have to do everything we can to root this out.”

The victims of military sexual assault, those still in the service as well as those who left under the pressure of their tragic circumstances, are waiting and watching, hopeful and anticipatory that the President and Congress will not only bring greater awareness, regard and tangible action to this heinous and intolerable situation, but will stay on course in bringing legislated change to how rape in the military is ultimately brought to justice.

Here’s the video:


LDW_AI

 

Follow Lorraine Devon Wilke on Twitter, Facebook and Rock+Paper+Music; for her archive at Addicting info click here; details and links to her other work: www.lorrainedevonwilke.com.