This article was originally posted on Reuters by Jim Forsyth
A congressional panel will hold a hearing as soon as this month on sexual abuse in the military, an aide to a key lawmaker said on Tuesday, as the sex-with-recruits scandal in the Air Force continued to expand.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, a California Republican, "has committed to having hearings on this issue, and the committee is working on putting that hearing together," said Claude Chafin, a spokesman for McKeon.
Chafin did not say when a hearing would take place, but Jenny Werwa, a spokeswoman for committee member Jackie Speier, a California Democrat who has pushed for such hearings, said it is likely to begin January 23 before the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
On her show last night, Rachel Maddow discussed the debate around Chuck Hagel’s recent nomination to take over as Defense Secretary. Maddow cited Hagel’s voting record during his time as a Senator, when he repeatedly voted against measures that would expand access to abortions for female service members who were raped.
Maddow went on to discuss rape in the military more generally, and how the final Pentagon funding bill (NDAA FY 2013), which President Obama signed last week, provides services for sexual assault survivors—a “hard fought” policy change that Hagel, if confirmed, would be in charge of implementing and enforcing.
Watch the segment here and let us know what you think:
Today, President Obama nominated former Nebraska Senator and Vietnam War veteran Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary. If confirmed, Hagel would replace outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has taken unprecedented action to combat military sexual assault over the last year—including requiring that each branch of the military overhaul training programs to improve sexual assault prevention and the investigation and prosecution of assault cases.
During a press conference this afternoon, President Obama explained his choice by calling Hagel “the leader that our troops deserve” and a “champion of our troops,” as well as of veterans and military families. If Hagel is going to live up to these labels, he must continue and expand upon Sec. Panetta’s work to combat military sexual assault—and he’s uniquely positioned to do so, considering that, if confirmed, he would be the first enlisted soldier to serve as Defense Secretary.
No matter your politics, it can’t be denied that Sec. Panetta has taken some important first steps in ending rape in the military, particularly after seeing The Invisible War. If confirmed, we must work together to make sure Sen. Hagel continues these efforts when he takes over at the Department of Defense.
Posted by Christine Pelosi · January 07, 2013 1:00 PM
This piece was originally post on The Huffington Post:
According to the agency that aspiring Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wishes to lead, 19,000 of his future employees are raped by thousands of his other future employees every year. Forced to combat what they call an Invisible War, women (and some men) in the military find themselves at shocking risk for sexual assault by colleagues and the double bind of being charged as unfit for duty if they report sexual assaults.
As President Barack Obama's choice for Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel must immediately address this pressing issue.
My first suggestion to Hagel is that he see The Invisible War with military rape survivors, including those women and men profiled in this award-winning documentary that has exposed the epidemic and spurred calls to change antiquated Pentagon rules that blocked prosecutions and thwarted justice.
The final law included an entire subsection on improving sexual assault prevention and response in the Armed Forces, in addition to a series of related measures to improve the military justice system’s handling of sexual assault cases.
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Mike Turner (OH-10), Co-Chair of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, received word from Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley that the Air Force will implement language offered by Turner in the FY12 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1540) requiring the Department of Defense (DoD) to guarantee that victims of sexual assault have access to a military or civilian lawyer. Turner was joined by his fellow Co-Chair, Niki Tsongas, in an August 10th letter expressing concern about the Air Force’s failure to implement this provision.
“It is critical that we create an environment that punishes criminals and encourages victims to come forward. Providing legal counsel is a critical step in that process and should not be further delayed,” wrote Turner and Tsongas in their letter.
Since receiving the bipartisan letter, Lt Gen. Rich Harding, the Air Force’s Judge Advocate General, engaged DoD’s General Counsel, Mr. Jeh Johnson in a discussion on authorization for broader legal services for sexual assault victims. Johnson has since concluded that the provision offered by Turner authorizes legal assistance to those victims, including attending interviews of the victim and interfacing with military prosecutors, defense counsel, and investigators.
“The lessons that we learn will inform us about how to improve the availability and delivery of legal services to victims of sexual assault. This in turn should improve victim satisfaction and cooperation…and believe it will help us strengthen or Sexual Assault Prevention program,” wrote Donley in his December 21st response letter to Turner.
The Air Force’s Special Victims’ Counsel Program is a pilot program that will be applied across the Air Force. At the end of one year, the service will assess its effectiveness in providing legal assistance to victims of sexual assault.
Posted by · December 21, 2012 9:33 PM
· 1 reaction
Washington D.C. - Congressman Mike Turner, Co-Chair of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, issued the following statement as the Department of Defense released its Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military Service Academies:
“On the surface, this latest report and its statistics are troubling. However, the increased rate of reporting is in response to efforts combating this issue, both by leadership at the Defense Department, and by Congress. Historically, sexual assault is an underreported crime. This year’s National Defense Authorization Act continues to address this, and senior leadership at the Defense Department are working with lawmakers and within the Department to right its course. It’s time our servicemembers down the chain of command – all the way to cadets and midshipmen take note as well.”
Today, the House of Representatives approved the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act Conference Report, which sets policy and funding levels for the Department of Defense for the coming year. Congresswoman Niki Tsongas is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and served as an NDAA Conferee appointed by Speaker John Boehner to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the NDAA. Tsongas wrote provisions on multiple issues that were included in the final passed bill.
Congresswoman Tsongas has worked over the past year to author and successfully include provisions that strengthen the investigative and oversight tools for preventing sexual assault in the military; increase funding for lightweight and gender-specific body armor research and development; and provide a critical first step to help ensure the retention of the military’s mission at Hanscom Air Force Base and Lincoln Labs.
Posted by Kori Cioca · December 10, 2012 4:50 PM
· 57 reactions
Since The Invisible War first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, my life has changed in a way that was completely unforeseen and unexpected.
For one, people who know nothing about me – complete strangers – stepped up to take care of my medical situation when the Veterans Affairs Administration wouldn't. In the last year I’ve had procedures done to correct my bite, which was previously causing my muscles to spasm, even in a resting position. I’ve received my final upper arch of veneers and am a week away from my bottom arch being finished as well. I also receive nerve block injections every 3 weeks. While it might sound painful, these are amazing because they help me eat real food. With these treatments, I’m not confined to the soft diet that limited me for so long. My doctor who gives me the injections is also looking into arthroscopic options for the joint. He recently advised that, "The only way to fix the anatomic defect would be to break and fix your jaw. This is risky. And frankly I don't know anyone who would be able to complete it without risk. I don't think it is worth the risk to try to repair the defect and it can do more damage."
I was upset to learn that the damage in my face was too far gone for the surgery I was supposed to receive in 2006, but after 7 years without treatment I honestly thought the rest of my life would be spent in pain. Every night I thank God for my supporters and generous donors. I'm sure they understand how helping monetarily to fix the damage is a big step in my case, but how their help has given me psychologically support as well is something they could never, ever imagine. My pain is a constant reminder of what happened to me, and because of the support I’ve received form my donors, I will get a chance to maybe have a day without it that pain – that constant reminder of what happened. With that they have granted me the hope that ceased to exist before. I am forever indebted to them.
A few months ago at a historic Congressional hearing, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Gen. Shinseki pledged to work together to help ease the transition from active-duty service to civilian life for members of the armed service. When the Secretaries sat down together, they had both seen The Invisible War—and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas made sure that they knew that survivors of military sexual assault needed to be acknowledged during the process.
On Thursday, Sec. Panetta and Sec. Shinseki held a joint press conference with updates about the integration of VA and DoD support systems for service members, acknowledging the national security implications of improving the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
"Today, our veterans wait too long for the benefits they deserve and that's why, together, we're streamlining our processes ... between our departments," Shinseki said.
"We owe it to [service members and veterans] to give them the tools to put their lives back together and pursue their goals, whether it's getting a good education, the best health care, excelling in a new career, serving in our government, or starting a business,” said Panetta.
And they’re right. We’re encouraged by the renewed collaboration between the Departments, and with your help, we’ll make sure that Sec. Panetta and Sec. Shinseki know that the DoD and VA must also work to protect survivors of military sexual assault and improve their access to care as well.
To read the Department of Defense's article about the press conference, click here.
You can also watch a video of the press conference here: