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Close Vote on Chain of Command

For Immediate Release

May 7, 2014

Contact:

DC – Bill Silverfarb (202) 225-3531 / (202) 957-4340 cell; Bill.Silverfarb@mail.house.gov

CA – Katrina Rill (650) 342-0300 / (650) 208-7441 cell; Katrina.Rill@mail.house.gov

 

Congresswomen Speier: Close Vote on Chain of Command Moves the Ball Forward for Justice

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo/Redwood City) issued the following statement after the House Armed Services Committee voted down two amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act of FY2015 to reform how sexual assaults and other criminal offenses are prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Currently, the authority to prosecute such cases rests solely with the chain of command.

“The thoughtful and passionate debate tonight changed minds and votes. I was deeply moved by the statements of my colleagues especially those who served in the military. They more than anyone understand the importance of commanders, and how truly broken our military justice system is.” Congresswoman Speier said. “The growing support for taking sexual assault offenses out of the chain of command should encourage survivors and service members that we are closer to creating a fair and impartial military justice system.” 

“While we have much work in front of us, we are light-years ahead of where we started. It’s also important to remember that a majority of the American people is behind us, even if the House Armed Services Committee is not yet fully supportive.

“Our service members are stuck in a world where their fates rest within the chain of command, where bias is king and justice often a jester. My fight for survivors and reform will continue until these cases are handled by legal experts and not by those who are oftentimes proven to be the perpetrators,” Congresswoman Speier said.

Congresswoman Speier’s first amendment would have given the Chief Prosecutor of each service the discretion of whether to prosecute sexual assaults and other serious non-military offenses and received 13 yes votes to 49 no votes. The second amendment addressed only sexual assaults and received 28 yes votes to 34 no votes. It was the first time the committee voted on whether to take the criminal cases out of the chain of command and received bipartisan support.

 

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Congresswoman Jackie Speier is proud to represent California’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties. She is a senior member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). In her role on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Congresswoman is a ranking member on the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements and serves on the Subcommittee on National Security. She serves on the Readiness Subcommittee and the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on HASC and is a member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Congresswoman Speier was appointed to serve as a Senior Whip for the Democratic caucus in the 113th Congress.

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AP News Break: MILITARY SEX ASSAULT CLAIMS UP 50 PCT

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White House to Press Colleges to Do More to Combat Rape

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Army general disciplined over mishandling of sexual assault

By , Washington Post, Published: April 22

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The sexual misconduct complaints piled up on the desk of Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison Sr., the commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan. A colonel on his staff had been accused of having an affair with a subordinate, of drunken and inappropriate behavior with other women at a military club and lastly, of sexual assault.

But Harrison let most of the complaints slide or reacted with leniency, according to the Army. He had known the colonel for two decades and said he didn’t believe some of the allegations. In March 2013, when a Japanese woman accused the colonel of sexually assaulting her, Harrison waited months to report it to criminal investigators — a clear violation of Army rules, according to an internal investigation.

As chronicled by that investigation, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, the general’s handling of the case provides a textbook example of the Pentagon’s persistent struggle to get commanders to take reports of sexual misconduct seriously.

Stung by troop surveys that show most sex-crime victims don’t trust the military to protect them, the Defense Department has repeatedly pledged to fix the problem and punish commanders who don’t get the message.

“Everyone in positions of leadership are accountable,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday during a visit to a military call center for victims of rape, abuse and incest. “It doesn’t make any difference if you’re at the top of the military structure, a four-star general, or if you’re a private first class. You’re accountable.”

The military, however, has been slow to impose discipline on offending senior leaders.

The Army suspended Harrison in June for mishandling the case involving the Japanese woman but only after she took her frustrations outside the chain of command. She complained to the Army inspector general as well as to a Japan-based reporter for Stars & Stripes, a newspaper that covers the military.

After conducting an investigation, the Army inspector general rebuked Harrison in August for protecting the colonel and failing to take appropriate action. But the Army kept the results under wraps until this week, when it released a heavily redacted copy of the investigative report in response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by The Post.

Despite the suspension and rebuke, the Army brought Harrison back to the Pentagon to take another important position, as director of program analysis and evaluation for an Army deputy chief of staff. He received an administrative letter of reprimand in December for mishandling the sexual-assault case and other complaints, but remains on active duty.

Harrison’s attorney said the general officially notified the Army last week that he intends to retire after 33 years in the service. The lawyer, Michael J. Nardotti, Jr., said the timing had nothing to do with the Army’s decision to finally release the investigative report, six months after The Post first requested it.

“It was clear to him that this is in his best interest,” Nardotti said of Harrison’s retirement plans. He said that Harrison had accepted responsibility for the mishandling of the sexual assault case but that he wasn’t trying to bury the complaint. He also noted that the Army leadership continues to hold him in high esteem.

“People have noted the outstanding job that he has done in that role,” Nardotti said of the general’s current assignment. “He didn’t simply come back and say, ‘Now that this adverse action is underway I’m not going to do my job.’ He did his job. He’s soldiered on for the entire period.”

George Wright, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said the decision to relieve Harrison of command in Japan and to reprimand him effectively ended his military career.

“There should be no mistake that we will thoroughly investigate any allegations of impropriety and take appropriate action when warranted,” Wright said.

Army generals who have gotten in trouble for misconduct or inappropriate behavior toward women have often remained in the ranks for a long time.

Brig. Gen. Bryan T. Roberts, the former commander of Fort Jackson, S.C., was found guilty in a disciplinary hearing in August of assaulting a mistress and committing adultery; a separate investigation found that he also had affairs with two other women. He was fined $5,000 and issued a written reprimand.

He did not retire until April 1, almost eight months later. Army Secretary John McHugh reduced Roberts in rank to colonel, although he remains entitled to retirement benefits under federal law, Army officials said.

Brig. Gen. Martin P. Schweitzer was admonished by the Army last summer after an internal investigation found that he had e-mailed crude, sexually explicit jokes to other commanders about a female member of Congress, Rep. Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.). Schweitzer — who later told Army investigators that his e-mails were “childish” and “truly stupid” — still works at the Pentagon on the Joint Staff, although his prior selection for promotion to major general has been placed on hold.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair was reprimanded and fined $20,000 last month after he admitted during a court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C., that he had a long affair with a female officer under his direct command as well as inappropriate relationships with two other women.

He had originally been charged with sexual assault in March 2012, but that count was dropped as part of a plea deal. He remains on active duty, although his attorneys have said he plans to retire. Army officials said it can often take months to process retirement papers.

Two Air Force lieutenant generals also were forced to retire in recent months after they granted clemency to officers convicted of sexual assault — but only after an outcry from some members of Congress.

In Japan, where the Army has 2,300 soldiers and employs 5,000 civilians, a cascade of leadership problems surfaced at the end of Harrison’s tenure as commander.

On the same day that Harrison was suspended in June, the Army suspended or reassigned four colonels who worked for him, as well as a senior civilian official.

Lt. Col. Kevin R. Toner, a spokesman for U.S. Army Japan, declined to elaborate on the reasons for the mass suspensions and reassignments, except to say that most were unrelated to the investigation targeting Harrison.

One of those suspended was the colonel accused of sexual assault. The Army would not name him because his case did not result in a court-martial, but Toner said the colonel was subjected to administrative discipline.

Toner said the new commanding general. Maj. Gen. James C. Boozer Sr., conducted leadership surveys at U.S. Army Japan after taking over from Harrison but did not find “systemic concerns about misconduct.”

But a female captain who served under Harrison in Japan said that she personally knew of several sexual assault and harassment ­cases that languished or were dropped. Among them was a complaint she filed against a male major for harassing her during her maternity leave and making sexually offensive remarks.

“The system is so flawed that it’s almost not worth reporting anything,” said the captain, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she remains in the Army and fears reprisals. She said some junior officers took sex-crime cases seriously, but “they just kept running into roadblocks.”

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DOD Unveils Improved Sexual Assault Prevention Training

By Amaani Lyle American Forces Press Service | Monday, April 14, 2014 3:48 pm

WASHINGTON  – As part of efforts to eliminate the crime of sexual assault in the military, Defense Department officials today announced improvements to sexual assault prevention and response training for all members of the armed forces and civilian employees.

Officials said the improvements center on development of consistent sexual assault prevention and response core competencies and learning objectives for:

-- Training for new accessions;

-- Annual and refresher training;

-- Pre- and post-deployment training;

-- Professional military education;

-- Training for commanders and senior enlisted leaders before assuming their new positions; and

-- Training for sexual assault response coordinators, victim advocates and chaplains.

Within the first 14 days of service, officials explained, new accessions to the armed forces receive training that provides a basic understanding of the sexual assault prevention and response program, specific information on reporting options, and the services and resources available both on base and in the local region. Additionally, service members receive annual refresher training in sexual assault prevention and response, as well as before and after deployments.

At the professional military education level, officials said, the training emphasizes participants’ leadership role in supporting the Defense Department’s sexual assault prevention and response efforts.

In their training, officials said, commanders and senior enlisted leaders learn about:

-- The complexities of the crime and their role in fostering a command environment of professional values, team commitment, and dignity and respect;

-- Proactive measures to reduce sexual assaults in their units;

-- The protections afforded victims and the accused; and

-- The elements of quality victim care.

Training for sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates emphasize effective crisis management in addition to advocating for the victim and coordinating care, officials said.

For chaplains, training competencies focus on awareness of sexual assault as a crime, its impact on victims, and sexual assault prevention and response resources the Defense Department provides.

“The department is committed to eliminating sexual assault and ensuring an environment that provides dignity and respect for all members of the military community,” said Army Col. Litonya Wilson, deputy director of prevention and victim assistance in the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “We took steps to improve the quality of SAPR training with a specific focus on developing core competencies and learning objectives, ensuring consistency, and implementing methods for assessing the effectiveness of these training programs.”

The training improvements incorporate a coordinated effort designed to ensure that everyone in the military community -- including first responders, commanders, new service members, and those deployed around the world -- have consistent training standards and effective tools to prevent and respond to sexual assault, officials said. The services and the National Guard Bureau developed the core competencies and learning objectives jointly to incorporate best practices from the field and input from sexual assault survivors, they added.

“The entire military community must be engaged in creating an environment where sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexist behaviors are not tolerated,” Wilson said. “It is our aim to field innovative prevention strategies, new training approaches, and incorporate best practices for SAPR training to instill an environment that promotes respect and proper treatment of everyone within the department.

“Our focus is on creating a climate where sexual assault and sexual harassment are seen as unacceptable,” she continued, “not just because they are illegal, but because they are wrong.”

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DOD Issues Women’s History Month Report Honoring Military Women

 

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

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

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

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Click HERE to read the full report on defense.gov.

 

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

 

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

Matt Webb Mitovich | TVLine.com

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

NCIS Cast Kelli Williams

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

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

Click HERE to read about the announcement on TVLine.com.

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Hagel to meet with brass Friday on sex assault review

 

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

Tom Vanden Brook | USA TODAY | March 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Veterans Helping Veterans TV Interviews MST Survivor Advocate Kate Weber

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Click HERE to watch the full interview.

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