Protect Our Defenders: The Latest on Lackland
Protect Our Defenders' Founder, Nancy Parrish, sent an update to POD's supporters this week about the latest on Lackland.
News has been breaking almost daily this summer about the Lackland Air Force Base sexual abuse scandal, and to help get you up to date we've put a news roundup together so you can quickly see the full story in one place. Once you've had a chance to read our news digest below, please help us spread the word about this scandal by forwarding this email to your friends.
What is Lackland? Everyone who enters the Air Force goes through basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, located outside San Antonio, Texas.
The Story: On July 1, 2012, news broke that 31 trainees said they were raped, sexually assaulted or victims of other sexual offenses by their instructors while serving at Lackland Air Force Base.
The scandal widens: 3 weeks later, the number of victims climbed to 38 and the number of instructors being investigated internally rose to 15. Based on emails and calls we receive daily from survivors, we know that this problem is long standing and that 38 victims is sadly a fraction of the number of trainees sexually assaulted or victims of other sexual offenses at Lackland.
The military’s response: 2 instructors have received sentences so far. One received sentencing for 20 years, potentially shorter for good behavior. A second instructor received 30 days of military lock up, after which he will be permitted to remain in the military – a travesty of justice that infuriated survivors.
Major General Edward Rice at Lackland questioned whether Lackland is indicative of widespread assaults throughout the military, but then backed off, claiming rape in the military is a "localized" problem. The newspaper which broke the scandal just published our op-ed about why Rice's contradictions indicate that we need an external investigation.
Demands for a congressional investigation: Paula-Coughlin-Puopolo, the whistleblower from the Tailhook scandal of 1991, decided she wanted to start a petition with us to get to the bottom of the military's broken justice system. Paula's petition asks Rep. Buck McKeon, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, to hold a congressional investigation on the Lackland criminal scandal to protect our Lackland trainees. NBC News, ABC News, The Daily Beast, and others covered the launch of Paula's petition.
Why an open investigation? The military’s previous internal efforts to investigate military sexual assaults have failed. Lackland is only the latest high-profile case of military sexual assaults. It’s time for Congress to do its job of military oversight and hold an open investigation. Along with a petition, hundreds of people have also participated in our Twitter campaign to “#AskBuck” for an investigation.
After 10,000 citizens signed Paula’s petition, Paula and four other survivors of military sexual assault went to Washington to participate in a Protect Our Defenders press conference and deliver the petitions to Congress demanding for an open hearing ahead of a closed-door briefing. Our event received extensive media attention, including ABC News, Reuters, Bloomberg News, The Huffington Post, and many others.
Media Response News outlets published powerful op-eds echoing our sentiments. The Nation asked, Why Won't Congress Investigate Lackland? while The San Francisco Chronicle asked, Can the Military Solve Its Rape Problem? The San Antonio Express said Abuses Call for Inquiry by Congress, and the St Louis Post-Dispatch wrote "Military Justice is an oxymoron when it comes to women in the armed services."
Yet so far Congress has only held an inadequate closed-door briefing.
Lackland is not an isolated incident. For decades servicemen and women have suffered from widespread sexual assaults and continue to do so at bases and ships all over the world. A congressional hearing could investigate for signs of widespread sexual abuse. Our elected officials must now act to get to the bottom of the military's rape crisis.
If you haven't signed Paula's petition yet demanding an investigation, please click here to take action today.
If the AF member were to do these same acts outside the military, it wouldn’t even be a criminal act (e.g., a supervisor tries to start an office romance with a new hire).
That being the case, how can you say this was a travesty? Are you privy to information that indicates that AF member committed rape? If so, did you encourage that victim to come forward and testify? If the prosecution didn’t have access to that victim, how can you expect them to prosecute the crime? If you don’t have any such information, then I think it hurts your credibility to cry “travesty.”
A rapist in this situation WAS tried and convicted to 20 years. Yes, he may get time off for good behavior, but the same rules apply in calculating time off for good behavior for military and federal prisoners, so it’s certainly misleading to suggest that he might get out sooner, just because he went through a military court.
I watched your documentary. It certainly was heart-wrenching, but I noticed that it kept suggesting that civilian authorities handle sexual assault better than the military. I also noticed that there was no comparison of prosecution and conviction rates between military and civilian systems. Do civilian authorities prosecute these types of crimes at a higher rate? My experience with the civlian justice system has been that they usually only prosecute if the facts are beyond reproach (e.g., video evidence, serous injury to victim, etc.). My experience with the military justice system has been that they will often take marginal cases to trial (and often those marginal cases are ones that the local DA has declined to prosecute and then the DA then transfers jurisdiction to the military to proseute). I hope you have access to comparitive studies to back up the assertion that the military is broken when it comes to sexual assault. If the civilian system is no better or even worse, then maybe it comes down to the fact that sexual assault is difficult to prosecute (which is not admitting that it shouldn’t be prosecuted).
If a Convening Authority (the military commander, either a colonel or a general, charged with determining whether the refer an alleged criminal act to court-martial) declines to prosecute a case based on the recommendation of his or her legally-trained and very experienced Staff Judge Advocate (e.g., the witness refuses to cooperate or there is strong evidence to suggest that the act was consensual), how is that any different than a District Attorney declining to prosecute an alleged sexual assault?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.