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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.”


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.


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.

 


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.

MEET THE COMMITTEE:

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:

Republicans

  • 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

Democrats

  • 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

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.

Read more: http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2013/01/11/sen-barbara-boxers-daughter-behind-oscar-nominated-documentary-the-invisible-war


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.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/twitter-room/other-news/276561-female-lawmakers-applaud-oscar-nod-for-the-invisible-war#ixzz2HheiaOy7


‘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.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/invisible-oscar-film-has-dc-footprint-86034.html#ixzz2Hgm8JF2Q


Congress to hold hearing on sexual abuse in military

Credit: Reuters/Joshua RobertsThis article was originally posted on Reuters by Jim Forsyth

A congressional panel will hold a hearing as soon as this month on sexual abuse in the military, an aide to a key lawmaker said on Tuesday, as the sex-with-recruits scandal in the Air Force continued to expand.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, a California Republican, "has committed to having hearings on this issue, and the committee is working on putting that hearing together," said Claude Chafin, a spokesman for McKeon.

Chafin did not say when a hearing would take place, but Jenny Werwa, a spokeswoman for committee member Jackie Speier, a California Democrat who has pushed for such hearings, said it is likely to begin January 23 before the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

 


Rachel Maddow Discusses Military Sexual Assault

 

On her show last night, Rachel Maddow discussed the debate around Chuck Hagel’s recent nomination to take over as Defense Secretary. Maddow cited Hagel’s voting record during his time as a Senator, when he repeatedly voted against measures that would expand access to abortions for female service members who were raped.

Maddow went on to discuss rape in the military more generally, and how the final Pentagon funding bill (NDAA FY 2013), which President Obama signed last week, provides services for sexual assault survivors—a “hard fought” policy change that Hagel, if confirmed, would be in charge of implementing and enforcing.

Watch the segment here and let us know what you think:


President Obama Picks Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary

 

Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty ImagesToday, President Obama nominated former Nebraska Senator and Vietnam War veteran Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary.  If confirmed, Hagel would replace outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has taken unprecedented action to combat military sexual assault over the last year—including requiring that each branch of the military overhaul training programs to improve sexual assault prevention and the investigation and prosecution of assault cases.  

During a press conference this afternoon, President Obama explained his choice by calling Hagel “the leader that our troops deserve” and a “champion of our troops,” as well as of veterans and military families.  If Hagel is going to live up to these labels, he must continue and expand upon Sec. Panetta’s work to combat military sexual assault—and he’s uniquely positioned to do so, considering that, if confirmed, he would be the first enlisted soldier to serve as Defense Secretary. 

No matter your politics, it can’t be denied that Sec. Panetta has taken some important first steps in ending rape in the military, particularly after seeing The Invisible War.  If confirmed, we must work together to make sure Sen. Hagel continues these efforts when he takes over at the Department of Defense. 


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