Military Rapes And Sexual Assaults Reach Over 70 Per Day – Female Lawmakers Take Action (VIDEOS)

women_military_-_from_veterans_today

The last several years have shed horrible light on our U.S. military’s image in regards to the rapes/sexual assaults against our soldiers.

In 2011

A documentary was released at Sundance called, The Invisible War. The film digs deep into the inner battle, what has been a hidden battle in one of the most powerful military forces in history – The U.S. military. The battle? The rape and sexual assault of soldiers by others in uniform.

The trailer of The Invisible War was released by Academy Award nominee, Kirby Dick.

Here is the video:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fBaFQk6aE0?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

One rape victim in the film reports her rapist was given the ‘Military Professional Of The Year Award’ during the trial.

Another victim said:

“They made it very, very clear if I said anything, they were going to kill me.”

This is beyond shocking. How many victims have had to live with the sexual violence of rape and sexual assault during their service to the U.S. military? These soldiers put their lives on the line for our country, and now their bodies? How many soldiers have left the military because they were sexually assaulted or raped? And how many women – and men – decide against joining the military for fear of sexual assault? These questions demand answers.

This year:

In March:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered an investigation of sexual assault cases and how they are being handled after a military conviction for rape was overturned by an Air Force general. The Air Force was also facing scrutiny after the Lackland scandal, when 60 soldiers reported rape.

May 4:

A report by the Pentagon was released listing over 26,000 estimated cases of rape/sexual assault. I had to read that figure again. That means an average of 70 rapes/sexual assaults are taking place in the military every day. And, that’s a 37% increase over last year’s figures. The report consists of anonymous victims and only a few thousand have been brought to court. Why are so few assaults being reported to authorities? The victims fear retaliation of more abuse and loss of military ranking and, as we saw in the documentary trailer above, some feared for their lives. What’s more disturbing is we have no idea how many rapes and sexual crimes were not picked up in the study.

A Democracy Now video goes into great depth about the Pentagon report.

Here is the video:

May 4:

President Obama makes a statement, calling the findings in the Pentagon report, an outrage:

“For those who are in uniform who’ve experienced sexual assault, I want them to hear directly from their Commander And Chief  that I’ve got their backs. I will support them. I have no tolerance for this.”

May 5:

Just one day after the report, Co. Jeff Krusinski, the head of the Air Force’s branch of Sexual Assault Prevention unit, was been charged with sexual battery. Yes, you read that right – the head of the Sexual Assault Prevention Unit.

Jeffrey Krusinski

Photo: Arlington Country Police: Jeff Krusinski

May 6:

More reports began coming in about how the military has ignored or recklessly handled reports of rape. In February, Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, who was convicted of sexual assault, was reinstated into service after an Air Force general overturned the jury verdict, voiding Wilkerson’s conviction.

 May 7:

Rep. Murray (D-Wa) and Senator Ayottoe (R-NH) introduce Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013.

The Combating MSA Act would:

  • Provide victims of sexual assault with Special Victims Counsel (SVC) – a military lawyer who will assist sexual assault victims throughout the process.

  • Enhance the responsibilities and authority of DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office so that it can better oversee efforts to combat MSA across the Armed Forces and regularly track and report on a range of MSA statistics, including assault rate, number of cases brought to trial, and compliance with appropriate laws and regulations within each of the individual services.

  • Refer cases to the general court martial level when sexual assault charges are filed or to the next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest in the immediate chain of command.

  • Bar sexual contact between instructors and trainees during and within 30 days of completion of basic training or its equivalent.

  • Ensure that Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARC) are available to members of the National Guard and Reserve at all times and regardless of whether they are operating under Title 10 or Title 32 authority.

  • One particularly important  aspect of the bill: Lack of consent need not be proven in a prosecution. Consent is not a defense.

“When our best and our brightest put on a uniform and join the United States Armed Forces, they do so with the understanding that they will sacrifice much in the name of defending our country and its people. However, it’s unconscionable to think that entertaining unwanted sexual contact from within the ranks is now part of that equation,” said Senator Murray.

May 8:

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) ripped into military officials, asking Air Force Secretary Michael Donley why the chain of command was failing its soldiers. This week, the lawmaker plans to introduce a set of reforms she’s been developing with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), among others, to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The bill would remove decision-making on sexual assault cases from the chain of command, explains Glen Caplin, Gillibrand’s communications director.

“It is clear that the status quo regarding sexual assaults in the military is simply unacceptable,” Gillibrand said in a statement to the Voice. “We have to reform how the military handles sexual assault cases and take on the culture that perpetuates this kind of behavior,” says Gillbrand.

May 9:

Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) appeared with Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s HardBall.

“It is a real travesty,” She added,  “I don’t think that it’s a good idea at all that the commanding officer can actually throw out a jury verdict of somebody who has been convicted at a jury trial of serious sexual assault,” she said.

MSNBC contributor Goldie Taylor recounted her own experience as a former Marine 26 years ago, and how a friend in her unit was raped by an army ranger. Her friend reported the attack to a commanding officer:

“Not only was this man never charged, but she was sent to a psychological unit. She was given lie detector tests and, finally, her career was ended. She was absolutely humiliated.”

“The very idea that this is something that should be adjudicated in the command structure is ludicrous,” Taylor said. “I don’t trust the military can police itself on a subject like this.” – MSNBC, 5/9/13

Here is the video of Senator Kay Hagen with Chris Matthews: 

Senator Claire McCaskill also made a statement that day about the lack of criminal action and prosecution in the military:

 “That is the crux of the problem here, because if a victim does not believe that the system is capable of believing her, there’s no point in risking your entire career,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), another member of the Armed Services Committee.

May 12:

Reps. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)  appeared on CNN’s State of the Union. Both are war veterans who continue to serve in their reserve units now that they have been elected to public office, and advocate Gillbran’s proposal:

DUCKWORTH: It’s absolutely unacceptable, Candy. I want the military to be a place where women can succeed and thrive the way I was able to. And the military leadership at this point have shown that they have not been capable of fixing this problem.

GABBARD: There are no excuses. It’s not enough just to say this is not something we’ll stand for, we’ll hold these people accountable unless you’re providing a system and process to actually do that.

The news of the military’s 26,000 rapes/sexual assaults last year is surreal. Up until now it’s been seen, by many, as the military’s problem. Thankfully, more and more lawmakers are stepping up to combat sexual crimes in the military. For now, most are female politicians. I expect to see more male lawmakers also take a stand in the coming weeks and months if they want to prove they indeed care about the welfare of their female constituents.

A worldwide campaign called, Unite Against Rape, was launched in March by the women’s rights group, Unite Women.org. The purpose of the campaign is to support rape victims/survivors, as well as bring the discussion of our current rape culture into the forefront of media and public discussion. Given this year’s news, and now the Pentagon’s news, the discussion is there. It needs to continue until we discover and implement solutions.

If you’ve been raped:

If You’ve Been Raped/Sexually Assaulted, Contact: RAINN National Rape, Abuse, & Incest Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE or their Online Hotline

(The author, Leslie Salzillo, is an activist, political commentator, diarist and visual artist. Salzillo often writes diaries in Daily Kos, and began contributing to AddictingInfo.org in March 2013).