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

 

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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 Vogue.com, 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 line...by 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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1 Billion are Rising this V-Day: Will You?

 

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One out of every three women worldwide will experience physical or sexual abuse during her lifetime. In the United States military, the numbers are just as tragic: In 2012 alone, more than 26,000 service men and women were sexually assaulted while serving their country.

In 1998, the endless cycle of violence inspired Eve Ensler, award winning playwright of the Vagina Monologues, to establish V-Day—a global activist movement to inspire people to take action against gender-based violence and create a safer, more just world.

This V-Day, we’re standing in solidarity with millions of men and woman around the world for the 1 Billion Rising global day of action. Our #Reason2Rise? We’re calling for the end of military sexual assault.

Join us by calling your Senators and urging them to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA): 1-888-907-6886.

Our servicemen and women deserve freedom from sexual violence. Full stop.

Share this image on Facebook and encourage your friends to #Rise4Justice by calling on their Senators to #PassMJIA:

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When we rise together, we are #NotInvisible.

For more information on V-Day’s 1 Billion Rising movement, visit: http://www.onebillionrising.org/

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Gillibrand’s Stature in Capital Skyrockets

 

A warrior for warriors: Read why #NotInvisible champion Senator Kirsten Gillibrand credits our film as the spark that set off her crusade against military sexual assault. We're proud to stand behind her in her fight to stamp out this epidemic and pass the Military Justice improvement Act!

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By Jerry Zremski  | News Washington Bureau Chief

February 9, 2014

WASHINGTON – Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand may or may not win this week when the Senate finally votes on her legislation putting the prosecution of sexual assaults in the military in the hands of trained prosecutors rather than commanders.

But in a sense, she’s won no matter what.

Gillibrand, a New York Democrat who was appointed to office five years ago and who spent her first years in the Senate in the shadow of her predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, now finds her stature in the capital skyrocketing. And her relentless – and, to some, overbearing – effort to win passage of her military sexual assault bill is one big reason for it.

“Quite frankly, how she has handled this is a lesson to go forward on how to accomplish great things,” Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, one of nine Republican senators who are supporting her effort, said at a news conference on the issue.

What’s more, Gillibrand’s high-profile stance has led some to suspect she may one day move on to much greater things.

If Clinton – the overwhelming early favorite for the Democratic nomination – were for some reason to pass on a 2016 race for president, “Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand would be a strong contender,” Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of the popular liberal blog Daily Kos, wrote last year.

For her part, Gillibrand dismisses any such talk.

“It’s not an ambition,” she says. “It’s not something I aspire to, and I hope that Hillary does run because I want her to win and I’m going to help her win.”

Gillibrand’s immediate ambition, though, is to win passage of her bill removing prosecutorial decisions from the chain of command when sexual assaults occur in the military.

To Gillibrand and the 52 of her Senate colleagues who publicly support the measure, doing that is just common sense.

They say the statistics show that the current system, in which troops must report assaults directly to a commanding officer, is failing. After all, the Pentagon estimated that 26,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2012, but only 3,374 were reported.

Those statistics indicate that victims are afraid to report such crimes to their commanders, said Gillibrand, who dismisses the vow of military leaders who say they have “zero tolerance” for sexual assault within the ranks.

“If there was any other mission where the military said zero tolerance and failed poorly as they have in this instance, we would have deep, deep concerns,” she said.

Documentary spark

In an interview in her office last week, Gillibrand said she felt compelled to take the issue on after a friend recommended that she see a 2012 documentary about it called “The Invisible War.”

“When I watched that film, I was gripped with anger and disgust and determination that I was going to do something about it,” she said. “I was so offended by what happened to these brave men and women who would literally risk their lives for the country and then not only have to suffer through the horror of rape, but then be told, either by their commanding officer or by someone within chain of command, that nothing would be done for them, that there was no justice for them.”

Not long after seeing the film, Gillibrand found herself with the perfect platform on which to raise the issue, as she was appointed to chair the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Personnel. So after showing her senior staff “The Invisible War,” she went to work drafting her bill and raising awareness on the issue.

At a hearing last May, Gillibrand put victims of sexual assault front and center for the first time.

And then behind the scenes, she started lining up support for the bill, persistently buttonholing her colleagues on the Senate floor and working to resolve any concerns they might have.

For example, after Sen. Rand Paul – a tea party Republican from Kentucky – voiced worries that the bill was so broadly worded that it could remove commanders from the prosecution of AWOL soldiers, Gillibrand agreed to change the wording.

Before long, both Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, signaled their support for Gillibrand’s bill.

“I think this is a great example of how people from both sides come together and are willing to work on a problem and look honestly at, you know, what the problem is,” Paul said at the time.

Gillibrand said she now has 53 senators lined up in support of her measure – and predicts that she’ll reach the filibuster-proof number of 60 votes if need be when the Senate considers the bill this week.

Pentagon opposition

Yet she faces stiff and determined opposition from the Pentagon.

“Reducing command responsibility could adversely affect the ability of the commander to enforce professional standards and, ultimately, to accomplish the mission,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Senate hearing last year.

Even supporters of the military acknowledge that there’s a problem within the ranks, and they suggest changing it by adopting a narrower reform proposal put forth by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who last week announced that an independent panel had studied Gillibrand’s alternative and deemed it unworthy.

“After an exhaustive and careful study of the issue, these independent and diverse experts have reached an unequivocal conclusion: stripping commanders of their ability to launch courts-martial in sexual assault cases would not result in more prosecutions of predators or more protections for victims,” said McCaskill, a former federal prosecutor.

Younger veterans tend to say, though, that Gillibrand’s approach is the right one.

“We’ve got Sen Gillibrand’s back on this,” said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “I represent this new generation, which is much more diverse and has, I think, a different understanding and approach to the role of women in the military … So across our generation, we’ve seen an understanding and an urgency on this issue.”

Angering colleagues

At the same time, though, Gillibrand’s fierce fight for her bill has angered some of her colleagues.

A Democratic Senate aide griped that some suspect Gillibrand has even asked her campaign donors to pressure senators on the issue. And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told the New York Daily News last year that Gillibrand may have ulterior motives.

“You can go too far in this business,” Graham said at the time. “She’s really passionate. But now it’s almost like a political prize. It’s becoming a résumé-building exercise, is what I worry about.”

Asked about those comments, Gillibrand said she and Graham have already patched up their differences.

“He was angry,” she said. “We get along very well. He’s just very nervous about this reform.”

Still, Graham’s comments play into a criticism that has dogged Gillibrand since her early days in the House back in 2007: that she’s relentlessly, and annoyingly, ambitious.

Her work on the veterans issue, along with her decision to build a nationwide fundraising network that’s now one of the strongest in Washington, have fed into perceptions that Gillibrand may ultimately aim far higher than the Senate.

And Emily’s List – which works to elect Democratic abortion rights supporters to office – only fed into that perception when it published a list of “Women We’re Watching” as potential presidents. Clinton, predictably, topped the list – but Gillibrand was listed second.

“It’s extremely flattering” to be viewed in that way, Gillibrand said. “But I really enjoy serving in the Senate. I really feel like I have a place here to make a difference.”

Even her opponents acknowledge that.

“Without her persistence and passion, we would not be here today,” Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who opposes Gillibrand’s proposal, said on the Senate floor when the Senate debated the issue last fall. “She perhaps has done more than anyone else to focus our attention on this incredibly heinous crime.”

Read the full article here.

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The Most Glaring Omission in Obama's State of the Union Address

In a State of the Union address with a few glaring omissions—gun control and surveillance programs got just one line apiece—perhaps the most surprising was President Barack Obama’s failure to devote even an aside to the issue of sexual assault in the military.

His circumspection was all the more striking when the speech lingered over the service of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: One of the president’s guests was Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg, who has undergone years of surgery after being hit by a roadside bomb. It was the perfect moment to mention that an estimated 19,000 military men and women are assaulted in a year—and why not, since rape in the military actually has bipartisan appeal, enough to have made the strangest of bedfellows out of Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz.

The timing is stark, too: Just last week, Obama released a study on rape, and assembled a new task force to tackle the epidemic on college campuses. Sexual assault was the subject of his weekly address this past Sunday, and he decried the problems in the armed forces in particular as “an injustice that no one who volunteers to protect our nation should ever endure.” He has professed to care deeply about this issue before. “The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this,” he said last May. And the reformers in his party are in dire need of the push his address could have provided tonight. Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act, which would remove sexual assault prosecutions from the military chain of command, may come up for a vote in February—and is vulnerable to a filibuster from her opponents.

Read the full article here: http://bit.ly/1ibhrGq

 

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The White House Announces a Renewed Call to Action to End Rape and Sexual Assault

 

Yesterday, the issue of sexual assault hit the national stage when the White House Council on Women and Girls released a report addressing the scourge of sexual assault in society, announcing a renewed call to action to combat the epidemic of sexual violence.

The report also highlighted the administration's new guidelines to address the particular problem of military sexual assault, and proposed aggressive measures to end military sexual trauma. 

In an address on the report's release, the President had this to say about sexual violence in the military:

"When a member of our military is assaulted by the very people he or she trusted and serves with, or when they leave the military, voluntarily or involuntarily, because they were raped, that’s a profound injustice that no one who volunteers to defend America should ever have to endure."

Click HERE or below to read the full report.

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A military daughter

 

We thought we would share with you this touching email from Dana Brin, who was so moved after watching our film that she wrote to the PBS station that aired it.

This is the power of film and storytelling in action: giving the voiceless a voice and reaching hearts and minds. Thank you Dana for reminding us why we do what we do.

I am writing to you about the rape in the military. I so applaud you and your station for finally telling the truth about the united States Military. I was and am deeply sickened and sad about the state of military. It is so sick to see that justice and military benefits are not getting the help they need because of it. As a military daughter my dad was in the Navy Office Candidate School. He never spoke of this but next week I plan to start asking him about the experience from him and to see if this went on in his ship while he was an officer then.Thank you as a women for getting and having the courage to stand up and tell the whole story. This tells me to never go into the military as a woman, How sad in the year 2013 this is so. God Bless you Independent Lens. Keep talking.

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NO MORE PSA

 

NO MORE "EXCUSES" hit the web today and it's worth a WATCH and a SHARE, to say the least.

Between posters on military bases that list all of the things people should do to avoid becoming a victim, and defense lawyers questioning a victim of military sexual assault about her sexual habits -- whether she wore a bra to a party and how wide she opened her mouth during oral sex -- it couldn't be more clear that the time to stop victim blaming is NOW.

It's time to change the conversation -- away from blaming victims and toward holding criminals accountable.

Watch this video. Share it. It's a great place to start the conversation. Huge shout-out to #NotInvisible supporters, Joyful Heart Foundation for creating this important video.

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Gillibrand's Drive Challenges Senate Power Brokers on Military Sexual Assault Remedy

 

Article by Adele M. Stan, RH Reality Check:

In the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing room last June, an extraordinary spectacle took place as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, together with other top military leaders, assembled at a long table for a dressing-down by the senators over the epidemic of sexual assault taking place within the ranks—an epidemic that appears only to have grown since it first became known 20 years ago, and spilled into public view once again this year with a rash of news reports and the release of the latest data on the crisis by the Department of Defense.

By the Pentagon’s own accounting, an estimated 26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact were experienced by members of the military in 2012, often at the hands of perpetrators of higher rank. Yet only 3,300 reports of sexual assault were made that year, and a mere 302 went to trial.Senator_Gillibrand_RH_Reality_Check.png

Among the generals’ toughest critics on the committee that day were two women—Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)—whose questions were as pointed as their rejoinders were barbed.

At one point, McCaskill lectured a panel of commanders on Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin’s decision to overturn the sexual assault conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, citing a letter written by the general to justify his action as “astoundingly ignorant.” Referencing the general’s assumption of the victim’s culpability in her own assault, McCaskill said, “Are you frickin’ kidding me?”

Gillibrand, too, erupted with incredulousness at what she sees as military leaders’ failure to appreciate the depth of the sexual assault epidemic. Some commanders, she said, “can’t distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape.”

While the two share a penchant for outspokenness, particularly on the subject of sexual assault, their solutions to the crisis in the military diverge widely, and they are as different in style as the generations they represent.

Gillibrand’s ‘Question Authority’ Generation X Style

McCaskill, like most of her female colleagues in the U.S. Senate, exemplifies the ethos of the Baby Boomers, as described by a bevy of academic studies: Work hard, play by the rules, and behave with loyalty and deference to those above you in the organizational chart.

The future of the Senate, however, belongs to Gillibrand and her fellow Gen Xers who, according to social scientists, tend to rebel against authority, have little regard for seniority in the workplace, and believe in solving problems immediately—qualities that, especially when possessed by a woman, will jar any observer steeped in the conventions of an earlier generation.

Gillibrand wants to remove the reporting and prosecution of rape, sexual assault, and other serious crimes from the chain of command—a change she and victims’ advocates say will encourage more victims to come forward—and is meeting fierce resistance by military leaders. There’s no getting around the fact that Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (S.967) would represent a profound change to the very structure of the justice system in the armed forces.

McCaskill has aligned herself with Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), who accepts the claims of Pentagon leaders that removing any authorities from commanders will destroy “good order and discipline” in the ranks, and favors instead a new entity staffed by civilians in each of the armed services that would review any case that a commander refuses to pursue.

If the social scientists are right, the generational difference between two of the Senate’s strongest women may account, in part, for the fact that Gillibrand’s proposal is still alive and gathering support, even after being voted down in the Armed Services Committee, while McCaskill’s reward for playing by the rules in the battle over how to fix the military’s sexual assault has been deserted by nearly all of the other Democratic women in the Senate, who have either co-sponsored or expressed support for Gillibrand’s measure.

Unburdened by the Boomers’ reverence for hierarchy, Gillibrand, in her refusal to bow to the will of her committee chairman or the military brass, forced the women of the Democratic caucus to choose between the remedies favored by victims’ groups or those favored by the male military leaders who have presided over a crisis that has only gotten worse over the last two decades. But in siding with Gillibrand, they’re not merely expressing a desire for structural change in the military; they’re weakening the bonds of gentlemanly protocol in the Senate.

As Congress approached its August recess, the battle between Gillibrand and McCaskill became tense, with military brass, via McCaskill and Levin, publicly opposing Gillibrand, and a victims’ advocacy group allied with Gillibrand launching an unexpected broadside at McCaskill.

Won’t Back Down

When Levin, as committee chairman, shot down Gillibrand’s attempt to include the provisions of her proposal in the mark-up of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), he likely thought that was the end of it.

The two are, after all, in the same party, and Levin is Gillibrand’s senior, by far. In the culture of the Senate, few attributes are venerated more grandly than seniority.

In order to address the sexual assault crisis, Levin included a hodgepodge of measures, ranging from the creation of a victim’s advocate position, proposed by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); to removing a commander’s ability to overturn a sexual assault conviction, proposed by McCaskill, and criminalizing retaliation against victims by commanders.

But leaders of advocacy groups say that while helpful, these measures fall short of the kind of fundamental change needed to solve a problem that has only grown worse in the more than 20 years since it was first exposed with the Tailhook scandal, when 80 women and several men were assaulted by Marine and Navy pilots at an annual convention in Las Vegas.

Instead of folding her tent after her remedy was shunted from the mark-up, Gillibrand soldiered on, mounting a campaign to bring her Military Justice Improvement Act to the Senate floor, buttonholing colleagues and building a coalition of support that includes such unlikely allies as Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), both Tea Party darlings and aspirants for the 2016 presidential nomination (and fellow Gen Xers who have no compunction over defying the leadership of their own party).

At last count, according to sources in Gillibrand’s office, her military reform measure had garnered the support of 46 senators (including its author)—just five shy of the 51 she will ultimately need to convince Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that her measure is worthy of a floor vote.

Reid expects to allow that vote to go forward, according to an aide in the majority leader’s office, who hastened to add that observers should expect to see, in addition to jousting over the Gillibrand measure, a “robust debate of over 30 provisions to combat military sexual assault” when the NDAA comes to the floor later this fall.

An aide to Gillibrand told RH Reality Check that supporters of her measure include nearly all 16 of the Democratic women senators. Two—Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)—have yet to express a view on the bill, and none are standing publicly against it, except for one: McCaskill. (Emails and phone calls by RH Reality Check to the press secretaries of Stabenow’s and Klobuchar’s offices were not returned.)

A former county prosecutor who specialized in sexual assault cases, McCaskill asserts that putting such cases in the hands of prosecutors who work outside the chain of command will lead to fewer cases being tried, not more. A new class of military prosecutors will be loath to move forward with difficult cases, she says, in order to protect their win-loss record.

As Washington bureau chief of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bill Lambrecht has covered McCaskill since she first came to the Senate in 2007. “My sense is that she comes to this issue feeling that she has a lot of experience, and understands motivations and prosecution, and how prosecutors think, because she was one,” he told RH Reality Check.

At a July news conference, McCaskill herself put it this way, according to ABC News:

“I think anybody who knows my record, who knows that I’ve been working at this for years, who understands my time in a courtroom, no one in the Senate has cried with more victims of sexual assault than I have,” McCaskill said. “No one has looked more juries in the eye and said, ‘Put this man in prison for as long as the law allows.’ No one has had more experience with these kinds of crimes than I have. The notion that I would ever be a roadblock to prosecutions, is enough to give me a stomachache.”

The Fairest Adjudication

When the Department of Defense released those jaw-dropping estimates of sexual assault incidents in May, they appeared against the backdrop of relentless news reports of rape and sexual assaults committed by military officials ranging from military recruiters to the lieutenant colonel then in charge of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention unit.

The media’s attention was partly drawn to the decades-old sexual assault crisis by a devastating, Oscar-nominated documentary, released in 2012, on the military’s rape culture: The Invisible War, directed by Kirby Dick.

Dick says that while he appreciates McCaskill’s concern about a new prosecutorial structure possibly inhibiting numbers of cases that are brought forward, “the much more important bottleneck is how many people report [having been assaulted],” Dick says. “And right now, with less than 10 percent of people [who have been assaulted] reporting, the first objective of any legislation should be to increase reporting … and that’s where the Gillibrand bill is so effective.”

Today, when a soldier reports that she’s been raped or sexually assaulted by another in her unit, it is her commander who decides whether or not the case goes forward. Often the perpetrator is of a higher rank than the victim, who commonly finds that her commander is more inclined to protect the career of a fellow officer than to seek justice for a lower-ranking member.

And it’s not simply a matter of justice denied; retaliation against victims who report the crimes perpetrated against them is common. A Pentagon survey found that among victims who reported having been sexually assaulted, 62 percent said they had suffered retaliation for having done so. Sometimes the retaliation is career-destroying—not just ending the victim’s military career, but impairing her or his civilian career, as well. It is not uncommon for victims to be saddled with a mental health diagnosis after reporting a sex crime by a superior. Brian Lewis, a Navy veteran who spoke at a press event convened by Gillibrand in May, said that he was tagged with a personality disorder after he reported having been raped by a superior.

Gillibrand’s proposal would refer cases of sexual assault and other violent crimes to a new class of prosecutors, trained in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, removing the conflicts of interest that often occur when victim and perpetrator serve under the same commander.

The Gillibrand proposal echoes the practices of many of the nations the U.S. counts as its allies, including Israel, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. (Cases specific to military duties, such as charges of going absent without leave [AWOL] or dereliction of duty, would remain under the purview of the chain of command.)

Amos Guiora, a law professor at the University of Utah and former judge advocate in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), has been watching the Senate drama unfold.

“I haven’t really seen anything that’s remarkably compelling as to why [the adjudication of sex crimes] should stay within the chain of command,” he told RH Reality Check, speaking via Skype from his home in Israel. Instead, he said, the arguments he hears from Gillibrand’s opponents in the U.S. military amount to, “‘We’ve always done it like that’ and ‘Only the commander knows what’s good for the unit.’”

In Israel, said Guiora, who also served as commander of the IDF School of Military Law, the judge advocate decides whether or not a case goes forward. In that role, he said, “I informed the [unit] commander of my decision, but I didn’t consult with him as to my decision, and I didn’t require his permission as to my decision.”

In the rhetorical contest between McCaskill and Gillibrand, neither have produced data to support their claims as to whether the outside-the-chain-of-command adjudication structure used by U.S. allies for the prosecution of sexual crimes would increase the number of reported assaults, as Gillibrand asserts, or reduce them, as McCaskill says it would.

But that’s not the point, said Guiora. “I think the issue is: What’s going to enable the fairest adjudication of any particular incident? I think that should be the focus,” he said. “What’s important is whether or not he or she—the victim—believes that the attacker, the case against them, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

McCaskill Blindsided

In Gillibrand’s quest to keep her Military Justice Improvement Act alive after the Armed Services Committee voted against including its provisions in the annual defense spending bill, she began lobbying fellow senators one by one, Politico reported, keeping track of supporters on a big whiteboard in her office.

On July 17, she won a lot of attention when Rand Paul and Ted Cruz signed on as supporters, and appeared with Gillibrand at a press conference. That, and the subsequent article by Politico’s Darrell Samuelsohn and Anna Palmer, seemed to have set her opponents scrambling, and in less than a week, Levin and McCaskill produced letters from top military officials that detailed their contention that the Gillibrand measure would spell disaster for the armed forces.

The next day, a full-page ad appeared in the Post-Dispatch featuring an open letter to McCaskill from Navy veteran Terri Odom, who tells of having been raped and left for dead by a trusted colleague (with a rank superior to hers) when she was in the service, and then forced out of the Navy in retaliation for reporting the assault.

“How can you possibly be against the creation of a professional, independent, impartial military justice system?” Odom says in the ad.

Accompanying the lengthy text is a photograph of Odom from her Navy days—young and pretty, a smiling, dewy-eyed teenager in uniform, purse on her shoulder.

The ad was placed by Protect Our Defenders, a victims’ advocacy group whose president, Nancy Parrish, testified before the Armed Services Committee on the day the brass lined up to take their lumps from the senators for failing to have fixed the military’s rape culture. By all accounts, McCaskill was blindsided by the ad. (Requests by phone and email from RH Reality Check for comment from McCaskill’s office received no replies.)

When asked if McCaskill had been given a heads-up before the ad ran, Protect Our Defenders Executive Director Taryn Meeks, a former judge advocate in the U.S. Navy, told RH Reality Check that she had not. However, members of her group had met with McCaskill in the past, she said, “and there were obvious differences of opinion.”

“The reason that our response was appropriate was based upon many statements that had been made recently by Sen. McCaskill that warranted and necessitated a response,” Meeks said, rattling off three such statements, including McCaskill’s contention, stated in the July 20 episode of the MSNBC program Morning Joe that the Pentagon’s estimates of 26,000 unwanted sexual contacts included “somebody looking at you sideways, saying you look nice in a sweater.” (In fact, the Pentagon estimate does not include verbal sexual harassment, only physical contact.)

Another statement that drew the group’s ire was one McCaskill made to The Nation while explaining her belief that a case brought forward by an accuser’s commander was preferable to one brought by the kind of military prosecutor, working outside of the chain of command, that the Gillibrand bill would create.

“If everybody in the unit knows the commander has said, ‘This needs to go to court,’” McCaskill told The Nation’s Zoë Carpenter, “that gives you a level of protection you will never have when everyone knows a bunch of outside lawyers have bought your bull.”

“Their bull?” Meeks said, with irritation filling her voice. “These are the kinds of statements that we felt really necessitated a response.”

She also took issue with McCaskill’s assertion that the military should be granted another five years to rectify its sexual assault problem before deciding to change the command structure.

Of the ad featuring Odum, McCaskill told the St. Louis Beacon, “If she would have called, I would have loved to visit with her about it because I think if I would have talked to her, she’d get it.”

Pushing Back

Protect Our Defenders was prominently featured at the May Senate event at which Gillibrand unveiled her Military Justice Improvement Act, and the group is viewed as allied with Gillibrand.

The day after the ad appeared, McCaskill convened a press event featuring several retired service members who are women, including Lisa Schenck, associate dean of academic affairs at the George Washington University Law School and a retired Army judge advocate, who argued for maintaining the current adjudication structure for sexual crimes, and expressed support for a proposal put forward by McCaskill that would add a review by civilian experts employed by the military.

Schenck’s comments at McCaskill’s press conference were reported by ABC News:

“If you take out the command authority from the process, you are essentially gutting the military justice process,” Schenck said. “You have to look at why they are there in the first place. They are there for discipline and our military justice process is for discipline. Victims need to be empowered and [McCaskill's] bill empowers the victims.”

(Schenck declined to comment for this article.)

At McCaskill’s side stood Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and the GOP’s Kelly Ayotte, and joining Schenck among several women military veterans at the event were retired Marine Col. Ana Smythe and retired Navy Capt. Kathy Beasley. Yet none of those arrayed around McCaskill at that press conference were women who claimed to have suffered a sexual assault while in the military.

On the same day, McCaskill also posted on her website two diagrams pertaining to Gillibrand’s bill and the measures included by Levin in the appropriations bill that Gillibrand aides say include text that is misleading. Both of the diagrams on McCaskill’s site carry a note that says victims already have several avenues for reporting a crime outside the chain of command.

“Of course they can,” Gillibrand’s office shot back in a press release issued that same day, “but under the current system, regardless of whom you report the crime to initially, it ultimately ends up on the desk of the commander.”

A few days later, on July 30, Gillibrand made her case on the PBS show NewsHour, telling host Judy Woodruff, “The secretaries of defense, since Dick Cheney was secretary of defense some 20-odd years ago, have said, Judy, over and over again: ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual assault and rape. This has been within the chain of command every one of those years since. Commanders have had every bit of authority they need to tackle this problem and solve this problem, but it’s not being solved.”

Not to be left on the sidelines while the battle ensued, the Pentagon, in early August, fired some 60 troops who worked as either sexual assault counselors, recruiters, or drill instructors, according to USA Today, for “violations ranging from alcohol-related offenses to child abuse and sexual assault.”

A week later, McCaskill appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press to say there was no evidence that reporting of sex crimes had risen in the armed forces in countries where the adjudication of such crimes had been removed from the chain of command. She repeated her well-known refrain that to take the prosecution of such crimes from the chain of command was to “let commanders off the hook.”

Two days after McCaskill’s August 12 NBC appearance, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a number of measures the Pentagon was implementing to address the crisis, including a prohibition on commanders’ overturning jury verdicts rendered in sexual assault cases in the military justice system, which they’re currently permitted to do. (That prohibition, via a measure proposed by McCaskill, was already on its way to becoming law as part of the 2013 defense appropriation bill.)

While Gillibrand publicly applauded Hagel on that particular point, she issued a short statement that basically added up to: Nice, but not good enough. Then she went back to summoning support for her bill—the measure opposed by Hagel and the military brass.

The Coming Showdown

In the closing months of the current session of Congress, there’s a pile of business to take up—including a battle with Tea Party Republicans to keep the government open—and Gillibrand faces an uphill slog. Reid may have promised that her measure would see a vote (provided she musters enough support), but the comments of his aide suggest it will be presented amid a flood of competing—and complementary—measures.

“[M]y gut here is that [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid doesn’t want to have this vote on the floor,” said Sarah Binder, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and professor of political science at George Washington University, in a telephone interview. “It’s rare you see these divisive votes, because the parties don’t like to air their disputes publicly.”

On the merits of Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act, missing on the list of the measure’s supporters is the majority leader. Indeed, when RH Reality Check asked Reid in May if he supported Gillibrand’s measure, he gave a noncommittal answer.

Binder went on to explain that under the rules of the Senate, there are a number of ways that a vote could be constructed (or sabotaged), one variable being how cooperative Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) deigns to be. But McConnell, normally inclined to side with the Pentagon, may not be so inclined this time around, given the fact that he’s up for re-election in 2014, and is facing a primary challenge from the right. That means he needs the full-throated support of Gillibrand’s ally Rand Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator.

As for McCaskill, she may have won the battle by allying with Levin in voting down the Gillibrand measure in the appropriation bill, but she might just lose the war if Gillibrand wins a floor vote, one in which McCaskill could find herself as the lone Democratic woman in the Senate to stand with the nearly all-male line-up of generals and admirals who acquitted themselves so poorly before the Armed Services Committee during that epic June hearing on the military’s sexual assault crisis.

It all has political observers scratching their heads at McCaskill’s intransigence on the chain of command question, especially given her well-earned reputation as an adept and strategic politician. (This is the woman, after all, who, expecting a tough re-election fight in 2012, nudged Republican primary voters to pull the lever for Todd “legitimate rape” Akin, correctly seeing him as a weak opponent.) As Brookings’ Sarah Binder said, McCaskill’s last election “was really all about being on the right side of the women’s issue.”

“I think that perhaps McCaskill believes that she has more bona fides on this issue than does Gillibrand,” said Lambrecht of the Post-Dispatch. Others in the Senate, Lambrecht said, whisper “that maybe Gillibrand is trying to build on her résumé.”

Amid those whispers is the notion that perhaps Cruz and Paul aren’t the only supporters of the Military Justice Improvement Act who have embraced it with an eye toward the 2016 presidential race.

“There’s certainly some personality issue here,” Binder said. “I don’t normally traffic in those, except to say that Gillibrand is really dogged.”

What Binder sees as a personality conflict, though, may be attributable, in part, to the generational values Gillibrand embodies.

Binder noted how Gillibrand managed to achieve a piece of legislation that eluded Hillary Clinton when the former secretary of state, hardly a pushover, held Gillibrand’s seat: a bill to compensate workers at the post-9/11 ruins of the World Trade Center for the health consequences many encountered while cleaning up that toxic site.

Then there was Gillibrand’s coup in the face of the brass’ resistance to allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Speaking to the New York Times after Gillibrand unexpectedly rallied the votes she needed from Republicans to win a repeal of the Pentagon’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the Senate, Levin told the Times, “She is not shy about her views, and pressing her views and talking to anybody and everybody, on the floor and not on the floor, and in office visits, and in the hallways.”

Even if Gillibrand prevails in getting her Military Justice Reform Act to the Senate floor, it’s unlikely to pass the House, where Republicans are in the majority. But she’ll have kept the issue alive for the better part of a year, called attention to the plight of assault victims, and put the Pentagon on notice that a close eye is turned to its leaders’ promise to fix the problem.

And she’ll have secured her place as one of the Senate’s rising stars, heralding the arrival of the Gen X woman, and the passing of an age of deference.

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Jeff Probst on Military Sexual Assault

 

The Jeff Probst Show has really helped us raise awareness of Military Sexual Assault. And in case you missed Friday's re-run exposing this issue to more people across the US, you can watch the video of THE INVISIBLE WAR director and producer, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, appearing alongside military rape survivor Rebecca Blumer to discuss actions each of us can take to make a difference. Check out the exclusive video below.

Also, here are a couple of things you can do right now that will have a big impact - choose one and stand with us! Together, we are #NotInvsible.

1. Call Your Senators - Tell them that we need an impartial military justice system, urge them to co-sponsor the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). You can find your representatives here: http://bit.ly/1aLEIy6. We even provide you with a script. And if you're up for it, you can give us feedback and let us know where they stand on the issue.

2. Help Survivors Heal - Make a contribution to the Artemis Rising Invisible War Recovery Program. An intensive residential program for survivors utilizing non-pharmaceutical healing methods, the Recovery Program was founded by THE INVISIBLE WAR producer Amy Ziering and executive producer Regina Kulik Scully to develop a specialized treatment program for Military Sexual Assault (MST) related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The first 14-day pilot program took place in February 2013 and we're currently underway on the third round of pilot testing. You can make a donation here: https://rally.org/notinvisible 

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