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New Evidence: Emails from Aviano Sexual Assault Scandal

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

September 3, 2013 Contact: Brian Purchia, 202-253-4330, brian@protectourdefenders.com

*** PRESS RELEASE *** 

NEW EVIDENCE: EMAILS FROM AVIANO SEXUAL ASSAULT SCANDAL SHOWS BIAS AND BLIND LOYALTY FROM MILITARY BRASS; CASE IS POSTER CHILD FOR AN INDEPENDENT AND IMPARTIAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Pleas from commander of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base urging Lt Gen Franklin to not overturn Lt Col Wilkerson's aggravated sexual assault conviction ignored; Top Brass supportive of decision to protect Air Force pilot with long history of misconduct over victim and justice exposed

Disclosures send chilling reminder to victims of sexual assault in our military who are thinking about coming forward -- that military brass will go to extreme lengths to protect status quo and old boy's network, In public -- military leaders make statements that they have changed - correspondence shows opposite, Franklin decision cuts legs out from under brave victims, military prosecutors and military courts.   

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. military sexual assault epidemic has been international news for months and the case that has become the poster child for calls for an independent and impartial justice system took a disturbing new turn late last week. New evidence released from the Aviano sexual assault scandal show bias and complicity in protecting the old boy's network over the victim.

"These documents make crystal clear why we need independent and impartial military justice system, outside the often-biased and conflicted chain of command," said Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders. "In great detail they highlight how Lt Gen Craig Franklin and high ranking military officials' bias against the victim (who the chief prosecutor called, 'one of the most credible witnesses I've ever dealt with') and how Franklin repeatedly abused his power in order to protect Lt Col James Wilkerson, the perpetrator, even after he had personally overturned the conviction. Lt Gen Franklin was overly invested in seeing that Wilkerson get his clearance reinstated, get a good assignment next tour, and get promoted."

Lt Col Wilkerson was convicted of aggravated sexual assault against a civilian contractor at Aviano Air Force Base. As his punishment, Wilkerson was dismissed from the Air Force and sentenced to one year in jail. Lt Gen Franklin then overturned the conviction and freed his fellow pilot, reinstating him back into the Air Force against the recommendation of his own legal counsel. Franklin excused Wilkerson's criminal behavior in part because of his Good Military Character (GMC) and because he was a "doting father and husband" [See point-by-point rebuttal for Franklin's 18 reasons for overturning the verdict]. After Wilkerson assured Franklin that there were no more skeletons that might come out -- a subsequent Air Force investigation revealed that Wilkerson had an affair and fathered a child out of wedlock, further undermining Lt Gen Franklin's rationale for overturning Wilkerson's conviction and any logic for retaining him as a Colonel in the Air Force. This was just part of Wilkerson's long history of misconduct. It is clear that the chain of command "has his back" and certainly not that of the victim. This behavior continues to this day, despite their public statements.

Four months ago, Wilkerson's victim asked the Air Force to provide documents surrounding the trial and post-trial activities. The military failed to comply with multiple legal deadlines. Only after Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) stepped in and demanded a response that the documents were finally released last week. The newly released emails send a chilling reminder to victims of sexual assault in our military, who are thinking about coming forward, that military brass will go to extreme lengths to protect the status quo. 

In the emails, pleas from the Commander of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano, Brig Gen Scott Zobrist, who was Wilkerson's immediate commander, urging Lt Gen Franklin to not overturn Wilkerson's aggravated sexual assault conviction, were ignored.

"That would be absolutely devastating in so many ways that I cannot even begin to consider it," Zobrist wrote in a Feb. 19, 2013 email. "Having Wilkerson back on active duty at Aviano, even for one day, would... have a huge negative impact on morale, send a very negative message about how seriously we take sexual assault in the AF, and potentially call into question the effectiveness of our UCMJ system in general."

Lt Gen Franklin dismissed the warnings and instead got support from his entire chain of command to dismiss the jury's findings and toss out the conviction. In email exchanges, the Air Force Commander in Europe, Gen Mark Breedlove stated that he agreed with Franklin regarding overturning the conviction.

General Breedlove wrote "He [Franklin] and I have discussed in depth the meaning and the possible blow back. I stand behind his decision." [Click here for more excerpts from the FOIA release.] Furthermore, on March 15, before 500 majors, rising Commanders Breedlove defended Franklin's actions.

With Breedlove's blessing, Lt Gen Franklin set aside justice and started a full court press to get Wilkerson promoted and flying again.

"I intend to get him back to a flying assignment ASAP (away from Aviano.) Please make sure Col Wilkerson knows he can contact me or his OG... about the way ahead for his next assignment," wrote Franklin. "Getting him reunited with is family is the priority for the next few days. Certainly after he and [his wife] have had a chance to discuss it, we will see what he wants to do next."

Following Lt Gen Franklin's decision, Protect Our Defenders brought the Wilkerson victim to meet with elected officials ahead of a March Senate hearing on the ongoing epidemic and her case. The advocacy group also launched a campaign demanding President Obama and Sec. Chuck Hagel remove Franklin and Wilkerson from the service.

Meanwhile, calls quickly grew to remove the commander's authority to overturn verdicts, which the Defense Department recently agreed to adopt. However, commanders still have the authority to overturn sentences  - a remaining danger to justice and potentially as damaging as overturning a conviction.

Members of Congress, from both parties, condemned Franklin's action. "Franklin clearly substituted his own independent judgment for that of the convened fact-finding panel," said Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

"This [Franklin's explanation] letter, is filled with selective reasoning and assumptions from someone with no legal training, and it's appalling that the reasoning spelled out in the letter served as the basis to overturn a jury verdict in this case," said Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). The Senator went on to say, according to the Washington Post, parts of Franklin's letter explaining his actions, "just set my teeth on edge." 

In May, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-NY) Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) was introduced, which would move the decision to prosecute sexual assault cases from an often-biased and conflicted chain of command. The legislation has widespread bipartisan backing, with 46 senators publicly supporting the bill, including Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).

Senior military leaders have repeatedly told Congress and the public that they have "zero tolerance" for sexual assaults in the ranks and that they have changed the culture to address the crisis. The actions revealed in these newly released documents show the opposite. Franklin's decision and senior military's support for it has cut the legs out from under military prosecutors thinking about bringing sexual assault cases to trial and sent a extremely negative signal to victims who must decide whether to report their assaults and rapes.

"After decades of military sexual assault scandals from Tailhook to Aberdeen to Lackland and Aviano it is time for our elected officials to put the interests of our brave men and women in uniform ahead of empty promises from military brass," said Parrish. "The decision of military leaders to support the overturning of the Wilkerson conviction must have been made on faith, faith based on a belief that high ranking officers, whom they trust must be innocent. Our brave sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who risk their lives to protect us -- deserve to receive justice equal that which civilians are entitled - from professional, independent prosecutors, and not be left in the hands of an often biased chain of command."

This past spring, Wilkerson was reassigned, with his rank of Lt Colonel, to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, where many of Wilkerson's victim's family reside. 

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Read FOIA documents released by the Air Force re: Wilkerson  http://www.foia.af.mil/reading/thewilkersonfoiacase.asp

Stars & Stripes: Emails show general warned against reversing Wilkerson verdict 
http://www.stripes.com/news/emails-show-general-warned-against-reversing-wilkerson-verdict-1.238114

Protect Our Defenders Point by Point Rebuttal of Gen Franklin's 18 Reasons for Overturning Col Wilkerson's Sexual Assault Conviction 
http://www.protectourdefenders.com/point-by-point-rebuttal-of-gen-franklins-18-reasons-for-overturning-col-wilkersons-sexual-assault-conviction/

Protect Our Defenders petition Calling on President Obama and Sec. Hagel to Remove Lt. Gen. Franklin and Lt. Col. Wilkerson: http://www.causes.com/aviano

Stars & Stripes: Wilkerson had affair that produced a child, Air Force confirms http://www.stripes.com/news/us/wilkerson-had-affair-that-produced-a-child-air-force-confirms-1.225660 

Military Times: Sex assault clemency surprised prosecutor  http://www.navytimes.com/article/20130422/NEWS/304220007/Sex-assault-clemency-surprised-prosecutor

Arizona Republic: Protest planned over base transfer of sex-scandal figure  http://www.azcentral.com/news/politics/articles/20130422davis-monthan-transfer-sex-conviction.html?nclick_check=1

Stars & Stripes: Air Force to probe new allegations in sex assault case that roiled military justice system http://www.stripes.com/news/air-force/air-force-to-probe-new-allegations-in-sex-assault-case-that-roiled-military-justice-system-1.218182 

Statement to Congress from Aviano Victim:  http://www.protectourdefenders.com/protect-our-defenders-testifies-before-senate-armed-services-committee/

Politico: A call to fire general in sexual-assault dismissal  http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/air-force-general-sexual-assault-dismissal-90521.html?hp=r5

Dallas Morning News: Air Force officer, convicted of sexual assault, is assigned to victim's hometown  http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2013/04/air-force-officer-convicted-of-rape-is-assigned-to-victims-hometown.html/

Washington Post: Air Force general¹s reversal of pilot's sexual-assault conviction angers lawmakers http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/air-force-generals-reversal-of-pilots-sexual-assault-conviction-angers-lawmakers/2013/03/08/f84b49c2-8816-11e2-8646-d574216d3c8c_story.html 

New York Times: Hagel to Open Review of Sexual Assault Case  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/12/us/politics/hagel-to-open-review-of-sexual-assault-case.html?ref=jamesrisen&_r=0

About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders is a human rights organization.  We seek to honor, support and give voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been sexually assaulted while serving their country, and re-victimized by the military adjudication system - a system that often blames the victim and fails to prosecute the perpetrator. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at www.protectourdefenders.com or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ProtectOurDefenders or follow us on Twitter athttps://twitter.com/ProtectRDfnders.

Protect Our Defenders partners with Attorney Susan Burke, Burke PLLC to advance lawsuits filed against the DoD and service academies for repeatedly ignoring rape, sexual assault and harassment, failing to prosecute perpetrators and retaliating against the victim.

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How I Healed

 

As you may remember from THE INVISIBLE WAR, I was drugged and raped while serving in the Navy. That experience, combined with the retaliation I endured, nearly destroyed me. Gone was the woman I knew myself to be: fearless, confident and full of promise. I'd become a broken person -- suicidal and beat-down.

But today, I get to tell the second half of my story -- that of my recovery. It’s been a long and winding road but the Not Invisible community has shown me that I am not alone. With your support, I've been able to reclaim my voice. Now, thanks to the Artemis Rising Invisible War Recovery Program, I’ve been able to reclaim my power, too.Trina_at_the_Recovery_Program.png

It’s been a gradual shift but my nightmares have stopped and my family can see the difference in me, growing stronger every day.

Stand with me and support survivors of Military Sexual Trauma. Make a donation today to the Artemis Rising Invisible War Recovery Program to help other survivors get the healing they need and deserve.

The Artemis Rising Invisible War Recovery Program is a groundbreaking trauma recovery program that incorporates non-pharmaceutical treatments and modalities to help survivors of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) heal. Founded by producer Amy Ziering and executive producer Regina Kulik Scully, this community is stepping up where the government has fallen short -- providing a holistic program and a safe space for survivors to heal.

I am grateful to have attended the first pilot program and thanks to the support of many they are now underway on a third round of the program. If I’ve learned one thing throughout this all, it’s that it takes a village.

If you can make a donation today, please do. Any amount -- big or small -- will help heal women and men who’ve suffered enough. Suffered not just sexual assault but the experience of the military they love turning its back on them.

100% of your contribution goes to help keep the program operating, counseling survivors of military sexual trauma and healing our wounds.

Together, we have made this issue not invisible. And together, I know we can support the healing of many more survivors.

Together, we are #NotInvisible.

Thank you,
Trina

http://www.notinvisible.org/recovery_program

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Artemis Rising Invisible War Recovery Program

 

This movie and moreover, the movement that so many individuals helped jumpstart after seeing the film, has been a humbling experience to say the least.

Every day in our US military, according to DoD estimates, 49 men and women are sexually assaulted. Not overseas, not in the line of combat, not by the enemy - but here, on American soil, in the line of duty by their fellow soldiers. Together, we have been sharing THE INVISIBLE WAR and the message of the movie with friends, family and colleagues. We have gathered over 200,000 petition signatures urging the military to solve this crisis, and urging lawmakers to stand with survivors instead of the military top brass. Our actions have influenced policy, outed the military's dirty little secret and brought this issue to the national stage so that survivors of military sexual trauma can get the support they need and deserve.

In a recent article, "Trapped in Trauma: Male Victims Confront Sexual Assault in Military," by Leonora LaPeter Anton, writer for the Tampa Bay Times, we were saddened to learn that "nationwide, the VA has reserved 51 beds at six locations for military sexual trauma victims."

While we've been extremely vocal about the need for change and never shy about asking you to take actions that will help ensure real lasting change -- like calling your Senators and signing petitions -- we've been more reserved about something else we've been building, the Artemis Rising Invisible War Recovery Program. Inspired by their work with MST survivors in THE INVISIBLE WAR, producer Amy Ziering and executive producer Regina Kulik Scully launched the Recovery Program to create an intensive residential program that utilize non-pharmaceutical methods to help survivors heal. 

We're currently underway on our third round of pilot testing and hope to be to scale to a national program to reach as many survivors as possible. You have not only helped us raise awareness and make political change, but you have paved the way to create a program that has helped survivors heal. 

If you'd like to support the Artemis Rising Invisible War Recovery Program, please visit us and make donation at https://Rally.org/NotInvisible by CLICKING HEREThank you for your continued support and committed action. Together, we are #NotInvisible.

And, in case you missed it, here's a clip from Katie Couric's daytime show, "Katie" that features producer Amy Ziering, personal injury lawyer Susan Burke, and some of the incredible survivors from our first program.

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BREAKING NEWS: The Pentagon Releases New Sexual Assault Policies for the US Military

photo c/o Politico

photo credit: Politico 

Earlier this afternoon, the Pentagon rolled out new rules governing how the military will prosecute and investigate sexual assault.  

According to a report from USA Today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called military sexual assault “a stain on the honor of our men and women who honorably serve our country, as well as a threat to the discipline and the cohesion of our force,” adding that “it must be stamped out.”

The new rules would crack down on inappropriate relations between recruiters/instructors and new troops and provide survivors in each service with victim-advocacy programs, as well as legal advice and representation while reporting sexual assault.  Commanders will also be granted authority to transfer the accused to another unit, so that the burden isn’t placed on survivors, who currently have to request a transfer or serve with their assailant.  In addition to requiring regular reporting from the inspector general on sexual assault investigations that have been closed, the new policies would also require that the investigating officer in preliminary hearings on sexual assault be a military lawyer, to ensure that they are properly handled.    

These—and the rest of the policies that Sec. Hagel announced today—are a necessary step forward and represent a major victory.  But while the new measures are a clear indicator that our voices are being heard, they don’t go far enough to make the real change we need to fix the military’s broken justice system.

As Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said today in statement:

“The Pentagon taking action is a good thing and these are positive steps forward but it is not the leap forward required to solve the problem. As we have heard over and over again from the victims, and the top military leadership themselves, there is a lack of trust in the system that has a chilling effect on reporting. 302 prosecutions out of an estimated 26,000 cases just isn't good enough under any metric. It is time for Congress to seize the opportunity, listen to the victims and create an independent, objective and non-biased military justice system worthy of our brave men and women's service.”

That’s why we need to keep the spotlight turned on this issue by urging Congress to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act.  Go to http://phonebank.org/campaign/fight-justice-military-sexual-assault-survivors to call your Senator today and let them know that we need them to take this important next step to end rape in the military.  

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Gillibrand Talks Military Rape on the Daily Show

 

Our champion Senator Gillibrand was on The Daily Show with guest host John Oliver to talk about the fight against military sexual assault this week.

Even more reassuring was when she used survivor Trina MacDonald's words to describe why reform on this issue is so important. When Trina met with Senator Gillibrand in DC earlier this summer she told her, "I could survive the rape, but what I couldn't survive was how the military turned it's back on me."

If you haven't seen it yet, watch the video below. Know that your action and commitment is making a difference.

 Let's keep fighting. Together, we are #NotInvisible.

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Gillibrand Fact Sheet on Sexual Assaults in the Military

 

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office released the following facts regarding Military Sexual Assault on Thurs, July 25th.

Any of the following can be attributed to Senator Gillibrand’s office.



Today we heard more of the same in opposition to the bipartisan coalition sponsoring the Military Justice Improvement Act. This carefully crafted legislation supported by 44 Senators from both sides of the aisle seeks to reverse the systemic fear that numerous victims of military sexual assault have told us they have in deciding whether to report the crimes committed against them due to the clear bias and inherent conflicts of interest posed by the military chain of command's current sole decision-making power. According to the 2012 SAPRO Report, 25% of women and 27% of men who received unwanted sexual contact indicated the offender was someone in their military chain of command.  



According to DOD, 50% of female victims stated they did not report the crime because they believed that nothing would be done with their report. Even the current top military leadership admits the current system "has failed" and victims do not come forward because "they don't trust the chain of command." The bill is supported by the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE), and all the leading victim’s advocates groups, including but not limited to, Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), Protect Our Defenders (POD), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the National Women’s Law Center, Vietnam Veterans of America, The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), plus former Generals, former JAG officers and survivors of sexual assault across the country. 



This legislation was drafted in direct response to the testimony heard in the Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel from victims of sexual assault in the military, and the testimony of the military leadership. Unfortunately, in opposition to the victims, the full SASC committee chose to strike the Military Justice Improvement Act during the mark-up of the NDDA, protecting the current broken system. 



The problem of sexual assault in the military is not new, neither are the pledges of “zero tolerance” from the commanders and senior members of the committee, which date all the way back to then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in 1992. Below is a fact sheet correcting some of the misinformation used by opponents of the Military Justice Improvement Act.

 

Myth: Moving the decision over whether prosecutions move forward from the chain of command to independent military prosecutors will increase retaliation against victims. If an independent prosecutor, and not the commander, moves the case forward others will take it less seriously and retaliation will increase.



Fact: There is absolutely zero statistical or anecdotal evidence that would lend any credibility to this theory. Contrary to that theory, in the current DoD SAPRO survey, of those who responded they have been victims of USC, 62% say they have already been retaliated against which demonstrates the current chain of command structure some are seeking to protect is not working to protect victims. The idea that a commander putting forth the court martial “protects victims from retaliation” is directly rebutted by victims own reports, and ignores anecdotal evidence that commanders are also sometimes the assailant, or have conflicts of interest when a superior officer victimizes a lower ranking servicemember. Additionally, according to a 7 month investigation by the San Antonio Express, a survey of 1,200 service members who sought help since 2003 at the Military Rape Crisis Center found that 90% of victims who reported sexual assault where involuntarily discharged and diagnosed with mental disorders (an extreme form of retaliation).



 

Myth: We will have more prosecutions from within the chain of command because commanders move forward cases that civilian lawyers would not. Under the Gillibrand bill, if the lawyer doesn’t want to prosecute a case, it ends. Under the Levin bill, the commander can move forward even if the prosecutor doesn’t want to.



Fact: To claim keeping prosecutions inside the chain of command will increase prosecutions is not supported by the statistics. Of the DoD’s 26,000 estimated cases, only 2,558 victims sought justice by filing an unrestricted report and only an abysmal 302 proceeded to trial. A chain of command orientated system that produces only 302 prosecutions of 2,558 actionable reports is simply not holding enough alleged assailants accountable under any metric. The Military Justice Improvement Act will increase victims perception that they can receive an unbiased chance at justice, increasing unrestricted reporting and the number of successful prosecutions, which will put more sexual predators behind bars unable to victimize men and women in uniform again and again.



While the claim that under the Levin bill a commander can proceed against the lawyers recommendation is true, it omits the fact that rarely does a commander currently disagree with his JAG attorney. Additionally, it omits that in the current structure that the NDAA protects, the JAG making the recommendation to the commander is in the commander’s direct chain of command. Under the Military Justice Improvement Act, the JAG making the decision to proceed to trial would be independent of the commander and any possible bias from within the chain of command, such as the current ability for a commander to choose a judge and jury pool.



Lastly, the argument that we should go all the way in the other direction by reducing the civil liberties of the accused does not adhere to the fundamental values of a fair and independent American justice system.



 

Myth: Critics say this lets the commanders off the hook. How can you hold them accountable when you reduce their power?



Fact: This is a false choice and just plain inaccurate. There is nothing about this proposal that lets commanders off the hook. Commanders will still be held accountable for setting the command climate whether or not they make this one legal decision.  They are still fully responsible for and in control of their troops.  In fact, this proposal leaves many crimes within the chain of command, including 37 serious crimes that are unique to the military, such as going AWOL or insubordination, in addition to all misdemeanor type crimes under Article 15. That’s why a law professor and former Air Force officer wrote in the New York Times, “Everything about the proposal takes military needs into account, except for the fact that military leaders don’t like change.”

 



Myth: Victims can already report the crimes committed against them outside of the chain of command. 



Fact: Of course they can, but under the current system, regardless of whom you report the crime to initially, it ultimately ends up on the desk of the commander who becomes the sole decision maker over whether a case moves forward. The commander holds all the cards regardless of where the crime is reported and it is this bias in the system that keeps victims from coming forward and reporting the crime anywhere because they do not believe they can receive justice. 



 

Myth: This proposal will lead to fewer trials since prosecutors are concerned about their win/loss record and will only recommend cases they can win.



Fact: This reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how the military justice system works. JAGs move back and forth between defense and prosecution assignments, so they are less concerned about their prosecution numbers. Prosecutors are detailed to the billet for 2-3 years and take whatever cases are given to them by their department head.  The department head takes the cases that are preferred/referred.  Under our new structure the O-6 JAG would have the disposition authority to decide if a case proceeds to trial based on the strengths/weaknesses of the evidence.  In the military, prosecutors are professionally graded on a whole host of matters - not just wins/losses.  In fact, military prosecutors often receive praise from their superiors for being willing to take tough cases to trial. 



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Air Force Pulls Sexual Assault Brochure

 

Featured in our film, THE INVISIBLE WAR, Congresswoman Slaughter has been a longtime advocate for survivors of military sexual assault. After calling out the inappropriate content presented in a Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Brochure which states, "It may be advisable to submit than to resist" the Air Force has decided to pull this training pamphlet.

It's a shame that it took a lawmaker's stand and direct request to cease distribution of such materials. It should be clear that victim-blaming tactics cannot solve systemic issues such as the epidemic of military rape.

We applaud Rep. Slaughter for her tireless efforts and commitment to ending sexual assault, she fully realizes that it will take strong legislative action coupled with a fundamental shift in cultural understanding to eradicate this issue. 

"No service member wearing the uniform of the United States military should
ever be told `it may be advisable to submit than to resist' in the case of a
sexual assault," Slaughter said in a statement. "I am cautiously optimistic
about the Pentagon's agreement to review all sexual assault prevention
materials. We have to change the military culture if we want to stop this
epidemic of sexual assault, and this response is a step in the right
direction and a small victory for victims."

 

View the brochure and Congresswoman Slaughter's inquiry below:

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Cause for Celebration

 


Kori_Ariana_Ben_USCENTCOM.jpgThis Independence Day we're celebrating a handful of advocates for change who appeared in our film: Ben Klay, Kori Cioca and Ariana Klay. Here they are with Vice Admiral Harward, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, following a screening of THE INVISIBLE WAR at USCENTCOM's main headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base.

The group participated in a solution-focused conversation with some of the nation's most senior commanders, discussing leadership and how to improve the culture and overall experience for survivors of sexual assault within the military.

Vice Admiral Harward said, “It was an absolutely amazing session with the panel attended by Kori, Ariana and Ben. They had a captivated audience with over 20 flag officers [four stars down to one star] and thousands of others. The whole team was distinct, sharp and compelling."

Bravo to USCENTCOM for setting the standard by allowing an open engaging discussion with it's most senior leadership live in front of thousands of their subordinate leaders.

 

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Should Commanders Deal With Sexual Assault?

 

Proponents of keeping investigations within the chain of command say it ensures accountability.

Opponents say the current system discourages victims from coming forward.

While we believe the latter - as evidenced by only 3,374 cases of the estimated 26,000 sexual assaults ending up reported last year - we're interested to hear your thoughts.

Check out Kira Zalan's article in the U.S. News Weekly's Two Takes below, and let us know what you think.

 

Want to do more? Call your Senators and let them know what you think too. You can identify them and find their number here: http://phonebank.org/campaign/fight-justice-military-sexual-assault-survivors

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Independent Lens Audience Award

 il-audience-award-550x277.jpg

THE INVISIBLE WAR is up for this year's Independent Lens Audience Award! Can you help continue to spread the word and VOTE for us by clicking here?

It's been an incredible honor working with Independent Lens to push our film out to cities throughout America. Their support has helped reach and educate new audiences, engage new supporters and raise mass awareness - all in an effort to put an end to the epidemic of sexual assault military.

Can you help us keep the pressure on? Your action, your VOTE and audience awards like this make it crystal clear that we've got an army of advocates - outraged at the military's inaction on this issue.

Help us show the top brass that we're not backing down.

Voting is simple and will just take a minute, here's a quick "how to": 

1. CLICK HERE and go to http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/award/

2. Scroll down. Underneath the title Spring Films you'll see a list of movie titles.

3. Keep scrolling until you see THE INVISIBLE WAR, it will look like this:

   TIW_IITVS_Audience_Award_with_Circle.jpg

4. CLICK on the STARS. Your vote will be counted!

5. Once you've VOTED you can quickly share it with a friend, CLICK HERE to Tweet

Thank you for your continued support and committed action to raise awareness and help us bring justice to the survivors of military sexual trauma who so deserve it. If we tell everybody, then it's not a secret.

VOTE HERE http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/award/ 

Together, we are #NotInvisible.

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