Washington, DC – Yesterday, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), Chair of the Military Personnel Subcommittee and Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, led the first House Armed Services Committee hearing on domestic violence in the military in over fifteen years. The hearing included survivors of military domestic violence, outside experts, and Department of Defense officials.
“Our panel included three brave survivors whose courageous testimony revealed shocking failures within the Department of Defense and military services to identify, intervene, and prevent horrific abuse despite repeated attempts by the survivors to seek help,” Chair Speier said. “Kate Ranta’s devastating account of her husband shooting her and her father at point blank range as the couple’s 4-year-old son pleaded, ‘Don’t do it daddy, don’t shoot mommy!’ – an attack that occurred after she pleaded for help following her husband’s threatening behavior with firearms – sent chills down my spine. Leah Olszewski describing how her partner repeatedly kicked her in the stomach, with both feet, knowing she was pregnant and causing her to miscarry nearly brought me to tears. Rohini Hughes’ recounting of her abusive husband attacking not just her, but gouging their son’s open wounds and dumping food on their sick daughter was enraging.”
“All of these women summoned the courage to leave their abusive partners, but no thanks to command staff, local law enforcement, and support services. What was most chilling was that these perpetrators were protected by the military and others despite the fact that these are the kinds of individuals who should not be serving in our military,” Chair Speier added. “This hearing was an important part of my comprehensive review of the Department of Defense’s and military leadership’s handling of matters like these, which greatly impact servicemembers and their families and pose a threat to readiness and unit cohesion. The health and safety of our servicemembers, their families, and our national defense demands that we hold perpetrators responsible for their crimes and enablers accountable for potentially deadly complicity.”
The House Armed Services Committee last dedicated a hearing to military domestic violence in 2003. Since that time, the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office have released a substantial number of reports and investigations detailing inadequacies and breakdowns in the military’s response to domestic violence, from law enforcement, command leadership, and family support programs. Members from both sides of the aisle expressed outrage and frustration over the Department’s current practices and policies for domestic violence prevention, intervention, and response. Members from both parties also resolved to pursue greater accountability and action from the military.
In addition to the survivors, the panel also included testimony from outside experts Arlene Vassell from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, David S. Lee of PreventConnect, and Brian Clubb from the Battered Woman’s Justice Program, who shared suggestions as to how the military could better prevent domestic violence, including collaboration with local organizations. A.T. Johnston, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, and Kenneth Noyes, Associate Director for the Department of Defense’s Family Advocacy Program, testified as representatives of the Department.
Watch a video recording of the hearing here.