Changing the Conversation

Yesterday, Capitol Hill was abuzz as the Senate Armed Services Committee questioned Senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Throughout the six-hour hearing, our allies like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Richard Blumenthal raised the question of how Hagel, should he be confirmed, would continue to push through reforms and insurances that military survivors be not only allowed pathways to justice but afforded the care and support they deserve.

Watch the highlights here:

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Inadequate Care for Injuries Suffered During Sexual Assaults - Says GAO Report


Great article by Kay Steiger at Raw Story on the recent Government Accountability Office report that indicates less than adequate care for survivors of military sexual assault.

Some women in the military are still receiving inadequate care for sexual assault, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report <>  published Tuesday found. The report found that “not all first responders had completed the required training,” even after a 2005 Department of Defense directive mandated “a comprehensive policy for the prevention of and response to sexual assault.” One servicewoman even reported an inability to gain access to yeast infection treatment.

Though GAO found that the military “has not established guidance for the treatment of injuries stemming from sexual assault — a crime that requires a specialized level of care.” Often, officers assigned to be “victim advocates” for those who had suffered sexual assault “are not always aware of the specific health care services available to sexual assault victims.”

GAO investigated three military installations in the United States and seven Afganistan installations, as well as looking at eight Navy ships. The investigators talked to 92 servicewomen, 60 of whom said they believed they were receiving “generally” adequate care, but 8 reported deficiencies in female-specific health care.

“At one location we visited in Afghanistan,” the report said, “a female airman told us that she believed the military was trying to meet the health needs of women, but still had work to do—noting, for example, that a medication she was prescribed had given her yeast infections.”

The biggest barrier seems to be confidentiality. As Wired reported <> , “Sexual assault cases can be reported in the military using two ways: unrestricted reports and restricted reports. For an unrestricted report, a survivor reports an assault to superiors and military law enforcement, who — in theory — begin an investigation, and provide medical care and counseling. A restricted report, on the other hand, allows a survivor to confidentially inform superiors about the assault without sparking a criminal investigation. The survivor, according to military policy <> , should still receive medical care, but personally identifying information will be kept anonymous.”

But the GAO found that policies on the ground are inconsistent and often contradict the ability of servicewomen to file a confidential report of sexual assault. In at least one facility, “the policy was silent on the issue of sexual assault.” At another, “a command’s medical policy contained requirements for health care personnel that conflicted with their responsibilities under restricted reporting.”

This is problematic, because, as the report said, “As a consequence, sexual assault victims who want to keep their case confidential may be reluctant to seek medical care.” The report concluded that “such factors can undermine DOD’s efforts to address the problem of sexual assault.”

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Continuing to Battle Sexual Assault within the Ranks of Our Military


As your Representative, I began working on the issue of sexual assault in the military in 2007 when we learned of the tragic story of Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach (USMC).  Maria was a young woman from southwest Ohio who was serving her country honorably when she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a senior enlisted servicemember. Eight months later, she and her unborn child were murdered by that accused servicemember.
Maria’s mother Mary Lauterbach, and Dayton attorney Merle Wilberding have been integral in helping me find legislative solutions to the many problems Maria faced in the military justice system.
This past year, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, of Massachusetts and I created the bipartisan Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus with the intent of educating Members of Congress on the serious problem of sexual assault in the military. In furtherance of this effort, the Caucus sponsored a screening of The Invisible War at the Library of Congress last February. Since that time it has been viewed by countless Americans, servicemembers, legislators and leaders in our Department of Defense and has received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature. The nomination of The Invisible War is certainly welcome news and has been helpful in raising the awareness of sexual assault in the military.
With the help of the Secretary Leon Panetta and leaders at the Department of Defense, we are currently working to implement several policy changes on dealing with sexual assault. This includes increased access to legal counsel, a provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, to maintain a victim-focused system. Recently, the United States Air Force announced the full implementation of new pilot program, which builds upon the right to legal counsel. These recent changes along with years of work with the House Armed Services Committee have begun to change how this issue is dealt with inside our military. For far too long, the issue of sexual assault had gone unchecked.
I must commend the efforts of Pentagon leaders, including Secretary Panetta, as well as U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh for their continued efforts on behalf of our servicemembers. By combating the issue of sexual assault in the ranks, we are strengthening the morale and readiness of our bravest citizens. I hope through the story of Maria and The Invisible War, we can continue on a path towards ending the crime of sexual assault in our military.

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Military sexual assault film featuring Pingree gets Oscar nod

This article was originally posted by Kevin Miller at The Portland Press Harold on January 10, 2013

A documentary film about sexual assault in the military that includes interviews with U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, was nominated for an Academy Award on Thursday.

"The Invisible War" is a hard-hitting documentary on the U.S. military’s poor record for investigating and prosecuting rape or other sexual assault incidents. The widely acclaimed movie, which won the audience award for best documentary at the Sundance Festival in 2012, has drawn public attention to sexual assaults in the military and helped spur action in Congress as well as within the Defense Department.

The documentary features interviews with numerous survivors of sexual assault and their subsequent experiences dealing with a military culture in which only 8 percent of sexual assaults crimes are prosecuted and only 2 percent result in convictions, according to the filmmakers. The Pentagon estimates that nearly 20,000 sexual assaults take place in the military every year.


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113th Congress House Armed Services Committee


Now that the 113th Congress is in session, the House Armed Services Committee will convene for the first time for an "Organizational Meeting" at 11:30 a.m. in Rayburn 2118. The main item on the agenda? Ratify the committee's rules.

Check out Politico to stay up-to-date on the latest.

Click here to watch the meeting live.


Be sure you know who the Members of the House Armed Services Committee are.  Welcome them to the new Congress and help us make sure they know that Military Sexual Assault is a key military issue – we need to stick together and make sure that rape is never again an “occupational hazard.”  

Join us and tweet to the Members of the House Armed Services Committee:


  • Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Chairman, California
  • Mac Thornberry, Vice Chairman, Texas
  • Walter B. Jones, North Carolina
  • J. Randy Forbes, Virginia
  • Jeff Miller, Florida
  • Joe Wilson, South Carolina
  • Frank A. LoBiondo, New Jersey
  • Rob Bishop, Utah
  • Michael Turner, Ohio
  • John Kline, Minnesota
  • Mike Rogers, Alabama
  • Trent Franks, Arizona
  • Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania
  • K. Michael Conaway, Texas
  • Doug Lamborn, Colorado
  • Rob Wittman, Virginia
  • Duncan Hunter, California
  • John C. Fleming, Louisiana
  • Mike Coffman, Colorado
  • Scott Rigell, Virginia
  • Chris Gibson, New York
  • Vicky Hartzler, Missouri
  • Joe Heck, Nevada
  • Jon Runyan, New Jersey
  • Austin Scott, Georgia
  • Steve Palazzo, Mississippi
  • Martha Roby, Alabama
  • Mo Brooks, Alabama
  • Richard Nugent, Florida
  • Kristi Noem, South Dakota
  • Paul Cook, California
  • Jim Bridenstine, Oklahoma
  • Brad Wenstrup, Ohio
  • Jackie Walorski, Indiana


  • Adam Smith, Ranking Member, Washington
  • Loretta Sanchez, California
  • Mike McIntyre, North Carolina
  • Robert A. Brady, Pennsylvania
  • Rob Andrews, New Jersey
  • Susan A. Davis, California
  • James R. Langevin, Rhode Island
  • Rick Larsen, Washington
  • Jim Cooper, Tennessee
  • Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam
  • Joe Courtney, Connecticut
  • David Loebsack, Iowa
  • Niki Tsongas, Massachusetts
  • John Garamendi, California
  • Hank Johnson, Georgia
  • Colleen Hanabusa, Hawaii
  • Jackie Speier, California
  • Ron Barber, Arizona
  • Andre Carson, Indiana
  • Carol Shea Porter, New Hampshire
  • Dan Maffei, New York
  • Derek Kilmer, Washington
  • Joaquin Castro, Texas
  • Tammy Duckworth, Illinois
  • Scott Peters, California
  • Bill Enyart, Illinois
  • Pete Gallego, Texas
  • Marc Veasey, Texas
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Sen. Barbara Boxer's Daughter Behind Oscar-Nominated Documentary The Invisible War

This article was originally posted by Elizabeth Flock at US News on January 11, 2013

A number of Washington politicos appear in the new documentary The Invisible War, which looks at sexual assault in the military and received an Oscar nomination Thursday. Reps. Chellie Pingree of Maine, Loretta Sanchez of California, and Louise Slaughter of New York—all Democrats—share their thoughts on the problem on screen.

But behind the scenes, another member of D.C.'s political community was responsible for making the film happen.

Nicole Boxer, the film's executive producer, is the daughter of Democrat Barbara Boxer, the junior senator from California, and the ex-wife of Tony Rodham, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's youngest brother. (When the two married in 1994, it was the first White House wedding since the 1970s.)

The younger Boxer has produced documentaries and TV shows for more than a decade, often political in nature, on issues ranging from climate change to immigration. In 2007, she produced 14 WOMEN, a film about the 109th Congress and its record number of female senators—which included her mother.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the elder Boxer told a crowd at the Beverly Hills Hotel in November that she supported her daughter's new film, and that it had "already begun to effect significant change" in policy on sexual assault in the military. In June, the Daily Beast reported the film had even inspired Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to announce "a slew of changes to how the military handles reports of sexual assaults."

Slate's Alyssa Rosenberg wrote Thursday that The Invisible War was the "one Oscar-nominated movie you must see."

The film was directed by Kirby Dick, likely known best in Washington for his 2009 film Outrage on the supposed hypocrisy of closeted gay politicians.

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Female lawmakers applaud Oscar nod for ‘The Invisible War’

This article was originally posted by Alicia M. Cohn of The Hill on 01/10/13 01:42 PM ET

Several female Democrats were particularly interested in one Oscar contender announced on Thursday. 

The movie “The Invisible War” was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Documentary Feature, and Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) took to Twitter to congratulate filmmakers on raising awareness on the subject of military rape.

Military sexual trauma (MST) is the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) term used to refer to rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment that occurred during military service.

Female lawmakers have been particularly concerned with pressing the military to address the frequency of sexual violence in the military. Tsongas, along with Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) and others, are interviewed in the film. The documentary points out that the number of rapes reported by military service members is twice that of the civilian population, and the number of incidents actually reported is likely around 10 percent of the total.

The film urges action to curb the high rate of sexual assault in the military and criticizes the military’s current attitude toward the problem.

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‘The Invisible War’ Oscar film has D.C. footprint

This article was originally posted by PATRICK GAVIN of Politico on 1/10/13 10:10 PM EST

Of the five documentaries nominated for the Academy Awards on Thursday, no film hits Washington more directly than “The Invisible War,” which looks at sexual assault in the U.S. military.

“Absolutely, it’s a political film,” director Kirby Dick told POLITICO in the wake of the Academy’s announcement. “It was made to have an impact on policy. … We — and actually every one of them who we interviewed — were making this film so we’d help protect the current service members, men and women in the military.”

The film, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, interviews victims of sexual assaults in the military and talks with politicians such as Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.). The film is reportedly credited with having inspired Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to take action to eradicate sexual assault.

Amy and Kirby at Sundance

Dick jokingly said he learned of his film’s nomination Thursday the “old-fashioned way” — by going online, like everybody else. “We feel great,” he said.

And he said the nomination was especially gratifying “given the fact that it was such a strong set of films on the shortlist.”

“Any one of those films could have been in the Top Five.” The other films nominated are “Searching for Sugarman,” “The Gatekeepers,” “How to Survive a Plague” and “5 Broken Cameras.”

It’s not the first Oscar nod for Dick; his 2004 documentary about sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest, “Twist of Faith,” earned a nomination. Dick is also well-known for his 2006 documentary, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” which examined the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings system. “Outrage,” Dick’s 2009 film about political opposition to gay rights, earned him an Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism.

Although “The Invisible War” has already earned accolades, such as Sundance’s Audience Award for U.S. Documentary, Dick says an Oscar nod goes a long way in bringing attention to this issue.

“It’s a huge step towards shining a light on this,” Dick said. “The film has really done so much to bring attention to this issue. A year ago, when the film premiered, very few people in this country were aware of what an issue this was, and this has been changing over the year and I think a fair amount has been due to the film.”

Dick says there are “quite a few things on the wishlist that still need to get done” in order to prevent sexual assaults in the military.

“This decision to investigate and prosecute sexual assault has to be taken out of the chain of command,” Dick said. “In every civilian system of justice, there is not this conflict of interest that exists in the military. It’s been done in other militaries around the world and it would improve the system of justice in the military, certainly, and make for a stronger military.”

Dick says he continues to receive messages of support and thanks from people within the Department of Defense.

“We keep getting off-the-record notes from people within about how much of an effect this film has had on how they are approaching this issue.”

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The Invisible War Receives Oscar Nomination for Best Documentary


Just this morning we found out that The Invisible War has been nominated for an Oscar.  

As filmmakers we’re blown away, but most importantly we’re thrilled about what this means for the movement to end military sexual assault.  We’re in awe of every survivor who had the courage to defy the system and speak out, the members of Congress—those in our film and others on the Hill who have championed this issue—and the advocacy groups who have tirelessly pushed for action.

We’re honored that our film has been able to shine a light on this systemic issue – and is playing a role in transforming it.

It is a huge accomplishment to be listed next to other incredible films - you can view the full list of nominations here:

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U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Announces Annual Enforcement Report Briefing And Speakers - UPDATE


With all ears and eyes on us right now, Washington is listening and we’ve got a chance to raise our voices and make sure that survivors of military sexual assault are never invisible again. 

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has decided to investigate military sexual assault in its annual enforcement report.

On Friday, Jan 11th, the USCCR is hosting a briefing in DC, featuring expert testimony on the issue.  But the Commission is also accepting written comments from the public, particularly current or former service members who have first-hand experience with the issue.  Join us in submitting statements and testimony that will officially be noted on the record

Public comments may be submitted until COB Monday, February 11, 2013 and may be sent by two ways: 

  1. by mail to 1331 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Suite 1150, Washington, D.C., 20425
  2. emailed to

Want to share your thoughts with the community?  Tell us on Facebook!

Update: Click here to watch the videos of the hearing.

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