Pages tagged "Jessica Hinves"
Going back to Lackland, the place where my Air Force career began, a year after my career ended was definitely an emotional experience. Returning to the base in the midst of a large rape scandal involving 15 training instructors, all from a single squadron, was surreal to say the least. A few miles from the base lodging where my mother, one-year-old son, and I stayed were the barracks that housed female trainees. Some of the women who came forward in the Lackland case were assaulted in those barracks, just like I was raped in my room on a different Air Force base.
When I arrived at the base, Col. Glenn Palmer, the commander of the accused training instructors, had just been relieved of his duties because he proved incapable of keeping airmen safe. Another Lackland commander, Col. Mike Paquette, was dismissed in June for what a military attorney described as a loss of confidence in Paquette's leadership. The commander was notified of an assault and did not act.
It may sound like common sense, but sexual assault happens less frequently in squadrons where it is clear that such actions will not be tolerated and given a pass by the commander and by the members of the squadrons. My personal experience is a direct example. In my case, JAG recommended an article 32 hearing, and an actual court date was set. Unfortunately a few days before we were to go to trial there was a change of command.
After only four days in his post, the new commander decided to stop my case from going to court, against the JAG’s wishes, and told me via telephone conference that he believed my rapist simply didn't “act like a gentleman,” but shouldn't be punished for that.
The new Commander didn’t have any legal education, background, or knowledge. He simply had his rank as an O-6 Colonel, which made him judge, jury, and advocate. He took total authority over my case and threw it out, despite a nearly yearlong investigation and the advice of trained JAG officers, as well as fellow enlisted airmen who supported my case.
My case and the current situation at Lackland are all too much proof that the military justice system just does not work for instances of sexual assault. Earlier this year, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta put sexual assault cases into the hands of officers O-5 and above, but it isn’t enough. The new rules wouldn’t have kept my case out of the authority of the new commander.
What happened to me should never happen to another member of the military. If commanders won’t hold perpetrators responsible, then there should be an outside source of accountability, as established in the STOP Act, to make sure that justice stays in the hands of the law.
As I drove around the base on my way to a hearing to talk about my own rape, I saw a flight of female soldiers running and calling cadence in sync. I remember being like them, so proud to be so strong, and in the best physical and mental shape. I was ready to go to war. I was ready to serve my country, to commit myself to the Air Force and then enjoy the honors of service that I earned. But instead, my time was cut short. My PTSD from being raped forced me into medical retirement. But my rapist still serves to this day. As I watched those women, proud and loud running down the street back to the barracks, I found myself wishing I could go back, and wondering if I would, knowing what I know now.