DOD Issues Women’s History Month Report Honoring Military Women


In commemoration of Women's History Month, the Department of Defense has issued a special report to honor the contributions of women in the armed forces. The report includes numerous photo essays, videos, and profiles of servicewomen that highlight their talents and selfless sacrifice to defend our country.

However, there is a prominent omission in the report--the issue of military sexual assault, and the parallel importance of women military leadership to combat it. Pivotal in fostering a military work-place that is inclusive of the talents of women is an environment free of abuse, command bias when reporting sexual assault, and the culture of misogyny that is endemic to the ranks. Although women make up 14% of the armed forces, their talents are part of the bedrock of the military's strength and honor, and our nation is safer and more prosperous when more women lead in the ranks.

What do you think about the report? Tell us in the comments below.



Click HERE to read the full report on


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Actress Kelli Williams Cast in Upcoming NCIS Episode on Sexual Assault in the Navy


#NotInvisible on TV: NCIS will air an episode highlighting sexual assault in the Navy, to star "Army Wives" actress Kelli Williams. This announcement comes on the heels of the "House of Cards" bombshell episode that incorporated an important MSA plotline. One thing is certain--the tides are changing in our favor, and the military rape epidemic has come out of the shadows and into mainstream culture:

Matt Webb Mitovich |

CBS’ NCIS has enlisted TV vet Kelli Williams to guest-star in an upcoming episode that will explore the issue of sexual assault in the Navy.

NCIS Cast Kelli Williams

“It’s a really important episode for us,” showrunner Gary Glasberg tells TVLine of the installment, which has already been filmed and is now being edited. “I’m very pleased with how it’s turning out.”

Williams — whose previous TV credits include Army Wives, Lie to Me, Men in Trees and The Practice — plays an NCIS agent in the episode, which will be the second one to follow the imminent two-week NCIS: New Orleans planted spin-off (premiering this Tuesday at 8/7c).

Click HERE to read about the announcement on

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Hagel to meet with brass Friday on sex assault review


TODAY: In the wake of the shocking revelation that hundreds of sexual assault counselors, recruiters, and instructors were disqualified after internal review of their histories, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will be briefed by military leaders on the military's screening criteria. The disqualified servicemembers, many of whom served in "positions of trust" to counsel military sexual assault victims, were found to be sexual predators themselves--underscoring how deeply the military rape epidemic has taken root at the institutional level. 

Tom Vanden Brook | USA TODAY | March 13, 2014

WASHINGTON — Leaders from each of the armed services will brief Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday on the criteria they have used to screen out problem troops from serving as sexual assault counselors, recruiters and instructors, according to a Defense Department official.

The Army disqualified 588 soldiers after its review, while the Marine Corps found that all its Marines had passed muster. Hagel could require all the services to comply with a single standard, possibly the Army's approach or another one entirely, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because Hagel has not made a decision.

The meeting comes after USA TODAY reported on the results of the services' screening, which Hagel ordered last year in reaction to what the Pentagon referred to as a sexual assault crisis in the ranks.


USA TODAY found that the Army screened more than 20,000 soldiers serving as counselors, recruiters and instructors. The Navy announced Wednesday that it had disqualified 151 of 20,000 sailors surveyed after initially rejecting just five sailors. The Air Force disqualified two airmen.

"In May 2013, the secretary directed each service to review sexual assault response coordinators, victim advocates and recruiters to ensure they meet applicable selection criteria and standards of conduct," Army Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement. "Each service has fully complied.

"During the review, some of the services identified additional personnel categories and screening criteria. The department is currently reviewing those additional categories and criteria and may provide additional guidance for the entire department. We will provide the final results of any additional screening."

Offenses that disqualified soldiers included sexual assault, child abuse or a number of less violent violations of the law, including reckless driving. The Army seeks to discharge 79 of the 588 disqualified soldiers.

Members of Congress, including Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., on the Armed Services Committee, have called on the services to rescreen troops and abide by a single, stringent standard for those in what the military calls "positions of trust."

Speier made that request in a letter to Hagel this week and amplified it in a speech on the House floor on Thursday. She chided the Pentagon for not being more transparent about its reviews, saying they came to light because USA TODAY had pushed for them.

"Choosing the wrong people for these positions of trust is a betrayal for our troops," she said.

The services have more than 25,000 uniformed and civilian advocates for victims of sexual assault. The National Organization for Victim Assistance, an independent, non-profit organization, began certifying them in 2012. The Navy says the majority of sailors it had disqualified lacked proper training or certification.

"Victims can be confident they have access to professional victim advocates and will be treated with dignity and respect throughout their recovery," Wilkinson said.

To read the full story on USA Today, click HERE.

P.S.: Watch #NotInvisible champion Congresswoman Jackie Speier's (CA-14) speech on the House floor demanding all the armed services re-screen servicemembers in positions of trust.


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Veterans Helping Veterans TV Interviews MST Survivor Advocate Kate Weber


ICYMI: Check out this amazing Veterans Helping Veterans TV interview of MST survivor advocate and tireless voice for reform, Kate Weber. Kate was awarded the California Veterans Caucus’ 2013 "Veteran of the Year" award at last Saturday's California Democratic convention for her work combating the military rape epidemic and for giving voice to survivors.

Watch Kate explain how she is healing herself, and why she no longer felt invisible when our film came out: "None of us are invisible once we pull together.”


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ICYMI: Amy Discusses Filibustered MJIA Vote on MSNBC's Jansing & Co


Last week, in the wake of the failure of the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) to pass due to filibuster, Amy Ziering appeared on MSNBC's Jansing and Co. to discuss the way the Senate failed survivors. During the interview, Amy highlighted a salient truth:

The system as it stands is a travesty of justice that allows criminals to be their own judge and jury.

Click HERE to watch the full interview.


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Stand With SurvivorsOn Thursday, March 6, 2014, 55 senators -- the majority of the U.S. Senate -- stood up for survivors of military sexual assault by voting for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). Unfortunately, the bill was 5 votes shy of the 60 votes needed to overcome filibuster.

We may have lost that battle, but let us be clear: we are winning the war.

The very fact that the MAJORITY of Senators voted in favor of reforming the military's broken justice system is indicative of the tidal wave of support and awareness our cause has garnered over the past two years. The plight of our brave men and women in uniform who are betrayed from within by those they trust the most is no longer hidden in the shadows, but brought into the light and exposed on the national stage.

But we need your help to keep this issue alive and ensure justice.

Below we've listed the "Yea" and "Nay" votes on the Military Justice Improvement Act. Help us THANK those who voted for survivors and call out those who kept the status quo in place. Together, we have shown that this issue is #NotInvisible -- and these Senators' votes are not either. They will not soon be forgotten.  

CLICK the Senators listed below to TWEET at them and keep the flame of justice alive. 



Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)

Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY)

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA)

Senator Thomas Harkin (D-IA)

Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD)

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR)

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)

Senator John Rockefeller IV (D-WV)

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)

Senator Edward Markey (D-MA)

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS)

Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT)

Senator Mark Udall (D-CO)

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)

Senator David Vitter (R-LA)

Senator Christopher Murphy (D-CT)

Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN)

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV)

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Senator Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA)

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-MN)

Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE)

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC)

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Senator Mark Begich (D-AK)

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Senator Alan Franken (D-MN)

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Senator John Walsh (D-MT)



Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE)

Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)

Senator Michael Crapo (R-ID)

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI)

Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)

Senator John Reed (D-RI)

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS)

Senator Jefferson Sessions (R-AL)

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL)

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Senator John Boozman (R-AR)

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Senator John Isakson (R-GA)

Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL)

Senator Robert Portman (R-OH)

Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA)

Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)

Senator John Thune (R-SD)

Senator Thomas Coburn (R-OK)

Senator Daniel Coats (R-IN)

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY)

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)

Senator James Risch (R-ID)

Senator Joe Manchin III (D-WV)

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC)

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)

Senator John Hoeven (R-ND)

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Senator Angus King (I-ME)

Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE)

Senator Timothy Kaine (D-VA)


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Kirsten Gillibrand lauds ‘House of Cards’



#NotInvisible champion Senator Kirsten Gillibrand recently weighed in on the military sexual assault plot point in Season 2 of "House of Cards," saying that the episode sparked important debate and dialogue on the issue:


New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says her efforts on addressing military sexual assault inspiring a plot point in the new season of “House of Cards” doesn’t trivialize the cause, bur rather amplifies it.

“It’s another vehicle for victims’ stories to be heard,” the Democrat told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” on Wednesday.

If you have yet to see the second season, possible spoilers ahead: In an episode of the Netflix series, Claire Underwood, portrayed by Robin Wright, quotes a military brochure on sexual assault prevention during a meeting with Joint Chiefs representatives.

“This is from your own sexual assault prevention literature, and in it, it says ‘in some cases it may be advisable to submit than to resist.’ I think it’s quite clear that there’s still room for improvement,” Wright’s character says.

Wright’s character also proposes civilian oversight of military courts when handling sexual assault cases.

Gillibrand, who is currently pushing her own military assault bill, says show draws attention to the conversation.

“Many women have been walking the halls of Congress for almost a year now and frankly they deserve a vote,” the senator said. “To have more people talking about it both in the media and in popular TV series is important.”

Gillibrand’s New York and Democratic colleague, Rep. Louise Slaughter also touted her own involvement in getting the brochure referenced in the program pulled by the Air Force last April.

To read the full article on Politico, click HERE.

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Gillibrand To Chair Senate Subcommittee Hearing Examining Impact of Military Sexual Assault




Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Contact: Bethany Lesser (202) 224-3873



Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, will chair a subcommittee hearing to examine the impact of military sexual assault on Wednesday, February 26 beginning at 10:00 a.m. in 222 Russell Senate Office Building. The Gillibrand-led hearing will include testimony from victims of sexual assault and military officials to examine the links between sexual assault, PTSD, and suicide and how these links are currently being addressed.

On average, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. According to a report by the Brookings Institution, the risk of developing PTSD from sexual trauma is at least as high, if not higher, than the risk of developing PTSD from exposure to combat. The report also showed that veterans who are sexually harassed or assaulted while in uniform attempt suicide or intentionally harm themselves at more than twice the rate of veterans without exposure to sexual trauma.

U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel

Room SR-222

Russell Senate Office Building

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

10:00 a.m.


To receive testimony on the relationships between military sexual assault, posttraumatic stress disorder and suicide, and on Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs medical treatment and management of victims of sexual trauma.


Panel I

Lance Corporal Jeremiah J. Arbogast, USMC (Ret.)

Jeremiah Arbogast is a retired Lance Corporal who served in the United States Marine Corps and survivor of military sexual trauma (MST). He was drugged, rendered incapacitated and sexually assaulted while serving on active duty. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1998 and formally retired in April, 2006 due to his MST. Today, he is working to help veterans suffering from MST and also to combat the rising number of suicides among our veterans, and fix the broken military justice system. He is active with several veterans’ organizations, disabled sports teams and Protect Our Defenders.  He was retired from the U.S. Marine Corps due to post-traumatic stress disorder – or PTSD – with no valor or honor. Over time his PTSD worsened to where he wanted to end his life. He is now in a wheelchair as a paraplegic, due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His story was featured in two documentaries, The Invisible War and Justice Denied.

Ms. Jessica Kenyon, former Private First Class, USA

During training, Kenyon's teaching sergeant began to harass her. He constantly touched her, and made sexual jokes and comments to her. She did not believe it would be effective to report the teaching sergeant because her unit commander was openly misogynistic. He was known to say “this unit never had any problems until females came into it.” In December 2005, while Private Kenyon was home for the holidays, she was raped by a member of the Army National Guard. At that point, she reported both the sexual harassment by the drill instructor and the rape to an Army sexual assault response coordinator. The Army official advised her to put the rape "on the back burner" and focus on the sexual harassment. Private Kenyon then discussed the rape with Command, who advised that it would be used against her in promotional reviews if she chose to pursue prosecution. After she reported the harassment and rape, she was ostracized and retaliated against by her fellow soldiers. She graduated training with honors and went to her first duty station and when she arrived, the sergeant advised that he had received calls warning him about her. He then made a unit-wide announcement cautioning everyone that they “should be careful who you talk to because they might report you.” Later she was sexually assaulted and Kenyon reported the assault to Command. The assailant denied the sexual assault and failed a lie detector test as a result. He then recanted his testimony and admitted to the assault. He was charged with "lying on a sworn statement" and given only a non-judicial punishment. He was demoted two ranks but remained on active duty.  The assailant got to keep his job. Since leaving the Army, Kenyon has been working with veterans on military sexual trauma and related issues as well as studying the psychological effects of rape in the military in an effort to support and treat veterans and their families more effectively in the future.

Panel II

Dr. Karen S. Guice, M.D., M.P.P.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C, BCETS

Director, Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Office

Dr. Nathan W. Galbreath, Ph.D., M.F.S.

Senior Executive Advisor, Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office

Dr. Susan J. McCutcheon, RN, Ed.D.

National Mental Health Director, Family Services, Women’s Mental Health and Military Sexual Trauma, Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Margret E. Bell, Ph.D.

Director for Education & Training, National Military Sexual Trauma Support Team,

Department of Veterans Affairs

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Sexual Misconduct in the Military—and Why Kirsten Gillibrand Is Pushing Reform to the Top of Her Agenda



When #NotInvisible warrior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand watched our film in 2012, she was horrified to learn how brutally the military could turn its back on its own service members. We are deeply honored that the Senator credits our film as the catalyst that galvanized her fight for real reform in this recent Vogue profile piece.

Kirsten Gillibrand dates her battle with the U.S. military brass to late 2012. That was when the junior senator from New York attended a screening of The Invisible War, writer-director Kirby Dick’s documentary about sexual assault in the military. Like most Americans, Gillibrand was then only vaguely familiar with the problem—and the numbers came as a shock. According to a 2012 government report, an estimated 26,000 men and women in uniform had been subject to “unwanted sexual contact” from fellow service members over the previous twelve months. And yet only 3,374 such cases were reported, with 238 resulting in convictions. Of that number, 176 perpetrators actually served time. Put another way, the documentary reported, one in five women in the military is sexually assaulted or harassed over the course of her service.  

Gillibrand was galvanized. “I could imagine being so brutalized,” she told me, speaking by phone from her office in Washington. “But what I couldn’t imagine was how our military could turn its back so brutally on its own forces.” Careful to say that “we have the greatest military in the world,” Gillibrand added that such greatness made the number of sexual assaults all the more distressing.

The senator immediately began to raise awareness about what has come to be known as MST—military sexual trauma, the umbrella term for both sexual assault and repeated, threatening sexual harassment—setting out to radically change the way military rape is investigated and prosecuted. “What you hear from the Department of Defense is that making such changes would undermine ‘good order and discipline,’ ” Gillibrand said, noting that this was the excuse used to keep gays out of the military—and that she isn’t buying: “Twenty-six thousand assaults a year is not ‘good order and discipline.’ ”

I never thought it would happen to me,” Heather Pitcovich said on a breezy evening at her home in Biloxi, Mississippi. The end of another summer was coming; Pitcovich’s two-year-old daughter made chalk drawings before bedtime on the patio, while her husband, Gary, an ex-Marine, tidied up the garage. On the surface, Pitcovich seems to have a storybook life, blessed with a lovely family as well as a clear-eyed beauty and an enthusiasm that once helped her excel as a Navy recruiter. But she’s still haunted by what she says happened to her nearly a decade ago.
Pitcovich joined the Navy at nineteen, eager to see the world and prove her independence. She felt, like many women who enlist, that she could contain or ignore the boorish behavior of some of her comrades. Yes, Pitcovich says she experienced harassment—a superior officer who forced her to sit thigh-to-thigh with him on a base bus, a sailor who chased her down a hotel hallway at an out-of-town conference—but these incidents were, to her, a small price to pay for the job she loved. When enlistees or parents of enlistees brought up concerns, Pitcovich had a ready answer. “We hold ourselves to higher standards,” she’d say of the Navy.

By 2004 Pitcovich was put in charge of a recruiting office in North Carolina. It was at that time, she says, that a superior officer began making unwelcome sexual advances. “In the recruiting community, it’s not who you know but who you blow” was one of the milder remarks she recalls him making. It wasn’t long before his behavior came to seem to her like stalking; he even surprised her by showing up at a training session in another city. Pitcovich said she found herself in a situation common to many servicewomen: facing the increasingly threatening sexual demands of a superior officer, which can take on the air of a direct order.

Pitcovich said she eventually agreed to meet the officer at a bar near her home. “When I asked who was going to be there, he named a bunch of other senior people,” she told me. Later that night, she awoke at her house with a vague memory of getting sick and needing to be taken home. As her head slowly cleared, she said, she realized she was naked, and the officer was on top of her. “I couldn’t move,” she said. “I was trying to process what was going on.” Pitcovich said it took her months to recall another detail from that evening: the men she had been with laughing at the far end of the bar while a round of drinks was prepared. She became convinced she’d been drugged. She said she filed a report, and eventually, after a contentious Article 32 hearing—a prerequisite to a military trial—negotiated an agreement with the defendant, who accepted nonjudicial punishment for sexual harassment and fraternization. The Navy wouldn’t comment specifically on her case but referred me to Jill Loftus, director of the Navy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “I do hear a lot of testimony from victims of MST, and I would like to say I feel very badly for them . . . those are victims of a process that is very different from a process we now have,” said Loftus. “We take it very seriously now.”   

Some explain away the ever-growing incidence of rape—a 30 percent increase between 2010 and 2012—as just another example of deteriorating mores in society at large. Gillibrand cites in particular the remarks of Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh, who, in a Senate hearing last May, said the exploding number of rapes was due in part to a “hook-up mentality” among the young. “At that moment I realized how little he understood,” she told me. “Rape is a crime of dominance and degradation. It has nothing to do with dating or romance.”

More salient might be the fact that military-acceptance standards grew increasingly lax during the last decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. More waivers were issued to convicted criminals during the same period. According to a Navy survey conducted in the 1990s, 15 percent of male enlistees admitted to having committed or attempted rape before they first put on a uniform.

At the same time, the military does not offer its members the legal protections enjoyed by civilians. A case decided in 1950, known informally as the Feres doctrine, prevents injured servicemembers from suing for damages. A woman who is raped on base has the same recourse as a man who loses an eye in combat—both injuries are essentially considered occupational hazards. In military parlance, victims are just supposed to suck it up—or, if they won’t, they are required to go through the chain of command to seek redress. But what if officers in charge don’t take the crime seriously? Or maybe the perpetrator is a buddy or, in a leader’s eyes, an invaluable fighter?

To Gillibrand, no real change can come without taking decisions about rape cases away from commanders: She’s heard story after story on the subject—a commander blithely canceling a young woman’s trial at the last minute; a young man beaten and raped, yet told by his commander that he had brought the attack on himself. “It was devastating as a mother to hear these stories,” the senator said. “If my sons were in the military, this could happen to them.”

“Rape doesn’t have to become PTSD,” Jessica Hinves told me. Hinves, who became Pitcovich’s best friend after moving to Biloxi last year, is a freckle-faced former Air Force mechanic who favors ponytails and cigarettes. Raised in Kentucky, she came from a military family and was proud to continue that legacy in the Air Force. Like Pitcovich, she quickly distinguished herself. At Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, where she was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, a co-worker who had been harassing her sexually attacked her, she says. In the aftermath, Hinves went to the hospital for an exam, and by the time she returned to her base in North Carolina, everyone knew that something had happened. The man she claimed had attacked her worked one hangar away. She did not initially press charges, but as the gossip spread, someone thought it would be a good idea to coerce the two into a room together for a meeting. “I guess they thought we’d work it out,” Hinves told me.

When Hinves did eventually go to the authorities, she was hazed, she said. “When a guy is hit in combat, everybody pulls him out of the ditch to save him,” Pitcovich told me. “When you are raped, everyone turns their back.” The official investigation made Hinves feel like the person on trial. Why was she trying to get a buddy in trouble? she was asked. Why wasn’t she acting more upset? Did she understand the difference between rape and regret? Friends of the accused started banging on her door at all hours. “I was such a hard worker—I thought I had built a reputation as a crew chief,” she said. “It was all down the drain. I became Public Enemy Number One in the squadron.” She asked to be reassigned to another base in another state, where she was moved into what she considered a dead-end job.

Eventually, Hinves was hospitalized for a breakdown. Later, when her husband was deployed overseas, she began sleeping with knives hidden around their house. She lost 25 pounds, swallowed meds like candy, and began drinking heavily. Finally she started seeing a civilian therapist, who was the first person to validate her belief that she was being persecuted for fighting back.

It took one year for Hinves’s case to end up in a military court. Before the Article 32 hearing began, she said, a superior officer spoke to her and her attorney and promptly dismissed the charges. It was true, Hinves remembered him saying, that the man who had allegedly raped her “had not acted like a gentleman,” but at the same time the officer saw no reason to go forward with a legal proceeding. (In response to a request for a comment, Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jill White­sell said, “The Air Force is committing necessary resources to enact a multipronged approach to eliminate [sexual assault] and provide critical support to our victims.”)

In 2012, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered an investigation of military training across the board. By doing so he was following the lead of a critical mass of women—victims, attorneys, and elected officials who continue to use their political will to force change. Representative Jackie Speier of California has been among the most determined advocates—it was she who expressed public dismay over military-themed Facebook pages that “promote the idea that women are inferior and only useful as sexual objects and sandwich-makers,” and it was she who forced Congressional hearings last year on the rape scandal at Lackland AFB. Senators Gillibrand, Dianne Feinstein, Susan Collins, and Barbara Boxer have all reached across the aisle to push for reform as well.

According to attorney Susan Burke, who has staked her career on this issue, the real heroes are the first female victims who chose to come forward. “It’s really that willingness of the young women to say, ‘Wait a minute; I should not have been raped,’ ” Burke told me. The lawsuits she filed on their behalf, and her attempts to challenge or help reform the military justice system, have drawn widespread attention.

Two key organizations—both created by women—are lobbying government and military officials and helping victims heal. SWAN, the Service Women’s Action Network, is headed by Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine. Protect Our Defenders is run by Nancy Parrish, formerly the founding cochair of Human Rights Watch’s Northern California chapter. Both have used social media to build what has become, in a short time, a movement. “As people in the country become aware, they are appalled,” Parrish said. “They become engaged and want to see real reform.”

Last spring, Gillibrand took the boldest step of all, proposing legislation that would remove decision-making authority on rape cases from the chain of command and place it with an independent military prosecutor. During the months that followed, she garnered support from retired high-ranking women in the military, as well as conservative senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Gillibrand’s push cost her a few longtime allies, most notably Senator Claire McCaskill, who sided with Senator Carl Levin in supporting a competing bill that offered more moderate reforms and would keep commanders in charge.

At this writing, Gillibrand’s legislation is likely to make its way to the Senate floor early in the year. “We will continue to fight for this reform,” she said, insisting that real change can only come with “more convictions and more perpetrators going to jail—you need that rate to be much higher to change the culture.” She and her supporters were cheered in January when Air Force three-star general Craig Franklin—who had granted clemency to a pilot convicted of sexual assault—abruptly retired, citing the uproar his decision had caused.

As for Hinves and Pitcovich, both have left the service and say they are still fighting for their full military benefits. At a restaurant one night, the two spied a group of airmen in their flight suits. Pitcovich and Hinves giggled at their pretension—flight suits? Really? When they were off duty?

“Look at how cool those pilots are,” Pitcovich joked. Hinves laughed—but then, as they watched the men swagger around the room, the light in their eyes faded and flattened into something that looked very much like grief. “For so long the military was my life,” Pitcovich said. “That’s not who I am anymore. I don’t want to put on the uniform.”

To read the article on, click HERE

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So Now What Do We Do About Military Rape?


This piece is part of an Esquire Magazine series penned by infantryman and historian Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, aimed at opening dialogue and galvanizing change to end the military sexual assault epidemic.

By Lt. Col. Robert Bateman on February 11, 2014

Now we should start talking about solutions, because it is damned clear that despite all the rhetoric, despite all the press releases, regardless of the promises and pleas for more time, we are failing to stop sexual abuse, harassment, and rape in the Armed Forces.

Nothing I have seen -- no statistic, no pabulum from press releases, nothing -- has countered this. The cold hard fact is that the number of rapes and instances of sexual harassment in the military is apparently going up, not down. Taken all together, since women joined the Armed Forces in 1976, there are an estimated 500,000, at least, who have been abused while in uniform.* This shall not stand. But, at the same time, I do acknowledge that in some small ways it might be possible that we are making progress. Even I can see that, though it was too long coming and had to come in from the outside. The problem, sadly, is my culture.

Because I should not be the only one talking about this, let me hand you off to a couple of serious soldiers. One is an officer, a strategist like me. She is highly educated and almost by definition, brilliant. Another outranks me, and is also probably a damned sight smarter than me. These people are in uniform, currently serving our nation, and they too have stories. We will start with one about command.

"...[this was] written from the betrayal I felt from many years ago as I tried to navigate past what was an emotional, spiritual, and intellectual sexual harassment (which the Army does not have a definition or regulation for, but the civilian counselor I saw for a year after assured me was captured in civilian law), while I was not physically raped. ... Long story short: at a high stress/dangerous and isolated site, I was defending 3 NCOs [sergeants] who had been told to sleep up their chain of command or get bad NCOERs [yearly evaluation reports] and my entire system and everything and everyone I believed in turned on me for over six months. My boss would have me at attention or parade rest for hours and publicly scream at me because I refused to "let it go" days in row. He would try to turn NCOs against me and then ignore me for weeks. Then he would repeat the whole process and use other harassing behaviors all while trying to destroy my reputation throughout the unit and chain of command. All of this because I was standing up for Soldiers."

That was bad, but it gets worse.

 "I was at a duty station overseas. I worked at a high level command where I worked day in and day out with O6s. [Full colonels in Army-speak] I was placed in a position that was higher than my grade [Army-speak again, this means "rank"]. One of those O6s was my direct supervisor. He made every effort to get me into bed. Even when I rebuffed all of his effort he continued inappropriate advances making clear that as my boss, he held sway over my career and day-to-day life. Multiple colonels heard and saw these advances and did nothing, even when this happened at work. I asked for help from several O6s. Two said that they would talk to him, but that nothing would change. The others said "Tough, you are working with the big boys." Things continued to escalate ... however, it was made clear to me that because of his position it did not matter what happened. In the end he would never be held accountable, regardless of what he ultimately did.I know this may not seem as bad as the story that you told in your article but like others, I am the sum of my experiences. My experience as a female officer taught me not to trust. Senior officers will hurt you and it does not matter what happens. Even those that are supposed to protect you may hurt you.I have spent my entire military career experiencing various events that were across the sexual harassment and assault spectrum. In my career it seems like all I learned is that the system will never work, and you will always be blamed. When I was a 1LT it was my training NCO, the person I worked closely with who was supposed to help me learn about the unit and how things worked. He pushed for sexual interaction and I refused. I thought I could deal with it, until he attacked me while we were on TDY. [Temporary Duty, meaning travel away from your normal base.]Once this came to the attention of my supervisor they worked through the system. When I was interviewed, I was read my rights and told that this did not look good for the command. Then I was informed that nothing would happen and I was kept in a unit with him. [Much as what happened to my friend. She had to stay on the same ship as those who raped her.]When overseas in a warzone, I was accosted in the dark area by my tent. When I reported it, CID questioned if I was just trying to get a ticket out of there. I finished my deployment. I was in another overseas area and was subject to constant sexual innuendo and approaches. I worked at a stateside office and within my first week at a new duty station and position was told that as a woman it was not my place to be in the work place. The treatment at that job was not threatening it was only hostile. I could deal with hostile, at least I was not afraid of being assaulted.At another job, my direct supervisor displayed his interest and often crossed the a lot. After all of this I went overseas where the O6 issue happened. Throughout my career I experienced things like this. This is just a short overview. I also experienced life as an MP [Military Police]. I saw all of the people that were not charged, all of the victims that were subject to horrendous questioning, and the general lack of justice. This all changed my outlook until I had little faith left in the system, but at least I had some faith in the chain of command, until...The assault by the O6 took away what little faith I had left in anything. I lost all trust in the system, and all trust in anyone in the chain of command, and all faith in those of higher rank. I learned that life in the Army means living in fear. Every time I deploy, I know that I will be subject to at least sexual harassment and possibly worse. I go to work resigned at what I have to deal with. I know that this may not seem bad, I know it could all be worse. I have left the more explicit details of the assaults out. I don't know if anything will ever change in the Army. I doubt it will change in my time. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the way things are. I still cannot be alone in a room with a man of senior rank without that element of fear. Unfortunately I accept it as just the way life in the Army is. I wish that could change."

Actually, you know what? That is enough. You get the picture.

Solving things from the inside and preventing these events is what we should be working towards. Unfortunately, that has been a slow process. In my own case, I was a commissioned officer for 24 years before I ever saw anything even remotely effective on this issue. Then last year the United States Army made it mandatory that every single one of us in the Army (I cannot speak for the other services) watch a film that will absolutely induce rage. It is titled, "The Invisible War." You can watch it here. If you are a man, you will watch the whole damned thing. We did not make it -- civilian moviemakers acting on their own anger made it -- but thankfully somebody somewhere in the system realized, "That is our tool."

It was only then, after all of those years of ineffective PowerPoint briefings that for the first time, I heard men and women, talking frankly about the issue. We were forced (this was part of the annual deluge of "mandatory training" that all servicemen and women know all too well) to watch that movie. I came in skeptical, I finished it with veins throbbing on the surface of my shaven skull. It was the closest thing to effective that I have seen in my entire career. It got us talking, and angry, and among the officers and senior non-commissioned officers I work with, it brought out emotions that needed to be exposed so that we can all move forward. Before this, it was just a yearly PowerPoint briefing, usually given by somebody who got stuck with the task. Bottom Line: Posters in the hallways and in the unit training room do not stop rapes. Videos like this one, and the anger of good men (and women for that matter) are what might effect change.

If you really want to lose your toast, go ahead and take the time out of your life to watch all of that movie. You will be so furious at the end that hopefully you to will do something, and that is what I am trying to provoke.

In the meantime, since it is now obvious to me that these stories are being shared among survivors as well, let me give you, or more precisely them, some links. There is support out there.

Military Rape Crisis Center

Military Sexual Assault Advocacy

Military Sexual Assault and Awareness Facebook Group

Service Women's Action Network

Not Invisible

I have been writing about prevention, and that is good. But there is another aspect to this whole conundrum, which is what to do legally. I will put forward the options currently advocated in the next post on this issue.

*Women were, in fact, wearing uniforms long before then. The WACs, the WAVEs, and all of the other auxiliary women's units saved our bacon in WWII and beyond. But for political reasons republicans adamantly opposed the acknowledgement of these women being "in service" until the mid- to late-1970s. In 1976, the Congress forced the admission of women upon the military academies, and in 1978, the enlisted women officially became part of the services.

To read the article on Esquire, click HERE.





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The Invisible War


See the Film, Spread the Message


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