Washington, DC - Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco, San Mateo) today introduced legislation to dramatically reform how sexual assaults and rape in the military are treated (download bill summary.) She will hold a press conference on Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 9:45 am ET at the National Press Club (see details below.)
Speier stated, “For too long the military’s response to rape victims has been: ‘take an aspirin and go to bed.’ We owe our brave women and men in the military a justice system that protects them, not punishes them when they become victims of sexual assaults and rape committed by other service members.”

Speier added, “Despite 25 years of Pentagon studies, task force recommendations and congressional hearings, sexual assaults and rape in the military continue unabated. In 2010 the Department of Defense (DoD) conducted a survey of active duty members which revealed that only a small percentage of the more than 19,000 incidents of rapes and sexual assaults involving service members was actually reported. For the record, an estimated 13.5 percent of sexual assaults and rapes saw the light day—and only 8 percent of those reports resulted in prosecution—in the end 465 service members were either administratively discharged or punished through the court-martial process —that’s about 2.5 percent of the total suspected acts of sexual assaults and rape—a good percentage for a direct mail response, but unacceptable for a justice system.

“The vast majority of men and women who have been sexually abused have come to realize that there is no justice in the in the military’s chain of command and so they are forced to live with their trauma in secret and that, in turn, subjects them to a second act of victimization—they suffer while their attacker goes unpunished. Instead of justice, we end up with increased diagnoses of PTSD among victims of sexual assault who know what is like to be told to shut up and take an aspirin…it will only hurt….for a lifetime.

“The failure to respond in a judicial manner to sexual violence, is more than an injustice, it is, according to some of our highest ranked military leaders, a threat to our military readiness. Members of military units live on, survive on the code of watching out for each other. When sexual assaults and rape are hushed, or ignored, trust in a unit is compromised along with its collective readiness to engage the enemy.

“To end this needless injustice, I am proposing a legislative remedy and fully endorsing the website, Protect Our Defenders, which will provide the grass roots mechanics required to make our military leaders and Congress understand that what has been going on before their very eyes for decades is unconscionable and must be stopped. We owe our brave women and men in the military a justice process that protects them, not punishes them when they become victims of sexual assaults and rape.

“The Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act—the STOP Act—takes the reporting, oversight, investigation, and victim care of sexual assaults out of the hands of the military’s normal chain of command and places jurisdiction in the newly created, autonomous Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office comprised of civilian and military experts.”

Speier noted the following:
•    The military adjudication system lacks independence as military judges depend on base commanders and the like to provide the salient facts of a case while these commanders have significant discretion in dealing with accusations of sexual assault. Service members have only limited access to civilian courts to address their grievances.

•    The U.S. military’s default position regarding any servicemembers’ complaints is that they be resolved through the chain of command.  According to the Manual for Courts-Martial, “each commander has discretion to dispose of offenses by members of that command. Ordinarily the immediate commander of a person accused or suspected of committing an offense triable by court-martial initially determines how to dispose of that offense.”

Press Conference

Congresswoman Jackie Speier
Nancy Parrish, President Protect Our Defenders
Military Rape Victims

Thursday, November 17, 2011
9:45 am ET   

National Press Club
First Amendment Room
529 14th Street Northwest, 13th Floor
Washington, DC 20045