Defense Dept. Uncooperative in Sexual Assault Hearings

Kay Steiger

At recent Congressional hearings on sexual assault in the military, the Department of Defense prevented its sexual assault prevention program director from testifying.

Heartbreaking stories of sexual assault perpetrated against
female soldiers and military contractors, including those of Maria
Lauterbach
, Jamie
Leigh Jones
, and Lavena
Johnson
, have shown that women in the military face risk harassment, rape,
and even murder.

At an oversight hearing on sexual assault held by the
Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs last Thursday, Mary
Lauterbach, the mother of Maria, and Ingrid Torres, a victim of sexual assault
and an employee of the American Red Cross working with military bases, were
called to testify. The subcommittee had also subpoenaed Dr. Kaye Whitley,
director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SARPO) office, and
invited Michael Dominguez, principal deputy undersecretary for defense, to
testify.

But Whitley didn’t appear before the committee. When
Subcommittee Chairman John Tierney (D-MA) inquired why Whitley hadn’t shown,
Dominguez said he instructed her not to testify before the committee. Tierney
and Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) noted that it was illegal
for Whitley not to appear before the committee with a subpoena. "Dr. Whitley is
in serious legal jeopardy," Tierney said. "This is an unacceptable position for
the Department to take." As a result, he dismissed Dominguez before Dominguez
even delivered his testimony.

It’s unclear why the DoD isn’t willing to cooperate with
hearings on sexual assault, but from the Tailhook
scandal
in 1991 to what appears to be deliberate resistance to cooperation
with Congress today, the DoD’s record on sexual assault is far from stellar.

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The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
estimates that one in six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, but
chances of sexual assault on women in the military are worse. Congresswoman
Jane Harman (D-CA) recently said
that 29 percent of women in the military have experienced sexual assault but as
little as 8 percent are referred to courts marital. The Pentagon reported
(PDF) this March that 6.8 percent of women and 1.8 percent of men in the DoD had
experienced "unwanted sexual contact" in the previous year.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) preliminary report (PDF) released
at the hearing last week surveyed a sample of servicemembers at 14 bases
domestically and abroad. Roughly half of the 103 who said they had experienced
a sexual assault in the previous 12 months chose not to report the incident,
the report found. Women who experience sexual assault in the military seem not
to report for a variety of reasons, including "the belief that nothing would be
done; fear of ostracism, harassment, or ridicule; and concern that peers would
gossip," says the GAO’s report.

Often the ways sexual assaults are addressed across the
branches aren’t consistent with one another, as Torres discovered. As an
employee of the American Red Cross, Torres worked with different branches when
she was stationed on bases in Japan,
Iraq, Korea, and Germany. While she had supportive
personnel in Korea, the
sexual assault response commanders stationed in Germany during her time there resisted her requests to keep paper records (so that her assailant, a doctor, might not
access them).

Some of the branches have volunteer Victim Advocates (VAs)
and other branches appoint them in each unit. Torres noted that the volunteers,
often women who had been through a sexual assault themselves, tended to be
better advocates than appointed ones since they had elected to fill the
position. VAs also need the power to operate outside the chain of command so
they can better protect victims from dangerous situations, Lauterbach said. A
VA with the power to accelerate a base transfer might have saved her daughter’s
life.

Another solution that both Torres and the GAO report pointed
to is that sexual assaults can be reported in two different ways: restricted
and unrestricted. A restricted report allows a victim to confidentially report
an assault and not necessarily press charges against the assailant. An
unrestricted report, meanwhile, must be reported up the chain of command and
automatically triggers a criminal investigation. An unrestricted report is
especially problematic for women who have been assaulted by someone in the
chain of command. By giving all victims of sexual assault at least the option
to file a restricted report, more victims might be willing to report.

What SARPO ultimately needs, the GAO report concluded, is
"an oversight framework-including clear objectives, milestones, performance
measures, and criteria for measuring progress." But this is another area where
the DoD has shown resistance. Congress directed the DoD to form a task force to
address the issue of sexual assault in 2004, but it is only until recently that
the task force has a full group appointed and they have yet to meet.

Congressman Chris Shays (R-CT), the ranking member of the
oversight subcommittee, called for the formation of the task force in 2004 and
noted that at the time the DoD kept telling him they were "days away from being
fully operational." Still, no comprehensive database for tracking sexual
assault has been created and there continue to be large inconsistencies for how
SARPO policies are implemented.

But as dismal as it may look for victims and potential
victims of sexual assault in the military, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren has
recently shown new leadership on this issue. At a training session last month,
Geren renewed
a commitment to the SARPO program. "We will work in the area of sexual assault
prevention, not just responding to the tragedy of sexual assault, but we want
to be a model in how we prevent sexual assault," he said.

It seems clear that the military has a long way to go in
addressing and preventing sexual assault. By creating clear and victim-friendly
guidelines that are consistent across all branches, as well as creating
high-quality training, the military might begin to prevent a number of sexual
assaults that occur. As the GAO report indicated, the DoD has taken some steps
toward addressing this problem, but the first step would seem to be
cooperation.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Sanders Vows to Continue the ‘Political Revolution’

Ally Boguhn

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) seemingly signaled he is not yet ready to concede the nomination to Hillary Clinton, and he promised to help push for reforms within the party while working to keep presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump from winning the White House.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) isn’t bowing out of the race for the Democratic nomination after the close of the presidential primaries, and Hillary Clinton took to the Huffington Post to talk about campus sexual assault and whether women should have to sign up for the draft.

“The Political Revolution Must Continue”: Sanders Vows in Thursday Night Address to Push for Party Reform

Sanders addressed supporters Thursday night after the 2016 presidential primary season ended earlier this week. He seemingly signaled he is not yet ready to concede the nomination to Hillary Clinton, and he promised to help push for reforms within the party while working to keep presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump from winning the White House.

“Election days come and go. But political and social revolutions that attempt to transform our society never end. They continue every day, every week, and every month in the fight to create a nation and world of social and economic justice,” Sanders said during the address, which was live-streamed online. “Real change never takes place from the top on down or in the living rooms of wealthy campaign contributors. It always occurs from the bottom on up, when tens of millions of people say loudly and clearly ‘enough is enough’ and they become engaged in the fight for justice. That’s what the political revolution we helped start is all about. That’s why the political revolution must continue.”

“The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly,” Sanders continued, vowing to soon begin his role in ensuring the Republican doesn’t make it to the White House.

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“But defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal,” he added. “We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become.”

Expressing his hope that he could continue to work with Clinton’s campaign, Sanders promised to ensure that supporters’ “voices are heard and that the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda.”

That agenda included raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ending the gender pay gap, defending reproductive rights, and protecting marriage equality in the United States, among other things.

Sanders’ speech came just after campaign manager Jeff Weaver said the campaign is “not currently lobbying superdelegates” and doesn’t “anticipate that will start anytime soon” during an interview on Bloomberg Politics’ With All Due Respect Thursday. The next day, Weaver told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Sanders is still “an active candidate for president.”

Clinton Weighs in on Stanford Sexual Assault Case, Women Joining the Draft

Hillary Clinton took a stand on two notable issues during an interview with the Huffington Post this week, telling the publication that she supported a measure in the Senate to require women to sign up for the draft and her thoughts about the Stanford sexual assault case.

“I do support that,” Clinton told the publication Wednesday when asked about the Senate’s approval of the National Defense Authorization Act, a military policy bill that would require women to sign up for the military draft once they turn 18, earlier in the week.

“I am on record as supporting the all-volunteer military, which I think at this time does serve our country well,” said Clinton. “And I am very committed to supporting and really lifting up the men and women in uniform and their families.”

As the New York Times reported, under the bill, “Failure to register could result in the loss of various forms of federal aid, including Pell grants, a penalty that men already face. Because the policy would not apply to women who turned 18 before 2018, it would not affect current aid arrangements.”

Though the U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled that women weren’t required to register for the draft as they were not allowed to serve in combat, the Times continued, “since Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said in December that the Pentagon would open all combat jobs to women, military officials have told Congress that women should also sign up for the draft.”

The draft registry has not been used by the United States since 1973, but requiring women to sign up for it has nevertheless been an issue on the campaign trail this election season. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called requiring women to register for the draft “nuts” in February prior to dropping out of the race for the White House, while other then-Republican presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former governor of Florida Jeb Bush all signaled they would support it.

During her interview with Huffington Post, Clinton also voiced her support for the survivor at the center of the controversial Stanford sexual assault case, saying she was “was struck by” the “heartbreaking power” of the letter the survivor wrote detailing her experiences.

“It took great courage and I think she has done an important service for others,” Clinton said. “What I’ve heard about this case is deeply concerning. It is clear campus sexual assault continues to be a serious problem. And I’ve said before and I will continue to say it is not enough to condemn it. We must find ways to end it.”

The presumptive Democratic nominee had previously released a platform for addressing the national crisis of campus sexual assault, which promises to “provide comprehensive support to survivors;” “ensure fair process for all in campus disciplinary proceedings and the criminal justice system;” and “increase sexual violence prevention education programs that cover issues like consent and bystander intervention, not only in college, but also in secondary school.”

What Else We’re Reading

Trump’s “endgame” could be launching a “mini-media conglomerate,” Vanity Fair reports.

“He was always very open about describing women by their breast size,” a crew member for Trump’s reality show The Apprentice told Slate of the presumptive Republican nominee. “Any time I see people in the Trump organization say how nice he is, I want to throw up. He’s been a nasty person to women for a long time.”

In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando at an LGBTQ club, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director of the LGBT Rights Project, David Dinielli, noted that “candidates on the campaign trail-and even the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party-elevate radical anti-LGBT leaders.”

Fact-checkers at the Washington Post took on both Clinton and Trump’s speeches on national security after the massacre in Orlando over the weekend.

“Regardless of your politics, it’s a seminal moment for women,” said Oprah, who offered her endorsement to Clinton on Wednesday, when speaking about the presumptive Democratic nominee. “What this says is, there is no ceiling, that ceiling just went boom! It says anything is possible when you can be leader of the free world.”

CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Tal Yellin, and Ryan Browne offer a look into the implications of Trump’s proposed plan to “suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies.”

Univision penned an open letter on Tuesday expressing their concern over Trump’s decision to revoke press credentials for the Washington Post.

Republicans may have fewer women in the House next year after the election season wraps up.

Texas has already spent $3.5 million fighting multiple lawsuits over the state’s restrictive voter ID law, in what an attorney helping plaintiffs in one of the suits deemed a “shameful waste of taxpayer money.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) moved to make voting in the state easier for some this week, signing legislation that will allow residents with driver’s licenses and state IDs to register to vote online. What’s the catch? According to ThinkProgress, “the option will not be available until early next year, after the presidential election, despite the Republican Secretary of State’s insistence that the Ohio could implement the policy immediately.”

Commentary Violence

Inciting Hatred and Violence: Unfortunately, This Is Who We Are As a Nation

Jodi Jacobson

As a country, we are more like those we condemn for espousing hatred than most Americans would like to admit.

“This is not who we are.” “This is not America.” These sentiments have become a common refrain in recent years in the response to everything from mass shootings to police abuse of power and police brutality toward protesters, to blatantly racist acts by members of a fraternity. In response to a CIA report describing the extent of torture and brutality used on prisoners in the “war on terror,” President Barack Obama asserted “this is not who we are,” because torture is “contrary to our values.” And in the wake of the mass shootings last year in San Bernardino, California, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch stated that: “Violence like this has no place in this country. This is not what we stand for, this is not what we do.”

But these statements are at best aspirational for a country in which the leaders of at least one major political party regularly exploit intolerance, fear, and “morality” to win campaigns, and in which the leaders of the other too often hide behind platitudes and half-measures intended to placate specific constituencies, but not fundamentally challenge those realities. They are at best aspirational for a country in which the beliefs of Islamic fundamentalists are condemned, but the same views when espoused by conservative Christian fundamentalists are given legal and social approval by both parties, because … religion. They are at best aspirational for a country in which women’s rights to their own bodies are a subject of ongoing debate, medical professionals are villainized and murdered, and rape and sexual assault are often blamed on the victim. These statements are also aspirational in a country in which we imprison people of color of every age, sex, and gender at rates far higher than whites; actively rip families apart by deporting millions of undocumented persons; and pass laws denying people access to basic human needs, like bathrooms, due to their gender identity.

We are not what we say. We are what we do.

Consider the events of the last 24 hours. A U.S.-born citizen (born in New York, living in Florida) opens fire in a large gay nightclub, killing at least 50 people and injuring at least 53 more. The shooter’s father suggested that the rampage was not due to religion but “may” have been incited by his son’s anger at seeing two men kissing. His former wife described him as being violent and unstable. He allegedly made a call to 9-1-1 to declare himself a supporter of ISIS. He used a military-grade assault rifle to carry out what is being called one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.

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In the immediate aftermath, even before details were known, the following happened: First, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has most recently worked strenuously to oppose the rights of transgender students in his state’s schools, tweeted and shared on Facebook the biblical quote from Galatians, 6:7, stating that “a man reaps what he sows.” Translation: The people killed had it coming because they were gay. (His staff later said the tweet was prescheduled. It stayed up for four hours.)

Before any details were shared by the FBI or Florida law enforcement, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), known for scapegoating Muslim Americans and calling for racial and religious profiling, was on CNN claiming that the U.S.-born shooter was “from Afghanistan.”

In short order, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined the fray by appearing on CNN. According to the transcript:

“If in fact this terrorist attack is one inspired by radical Islamic ideology, it is quite frankly not surprising that they would target this community in this horrifying way, and I think it’s something we’ll have to talk about some more here, across the country,” he said.

Rubio [also] said it’s not yet clear what the shooter’s motivations were, but that if radical Islamic beliefs were behind the shooting, “common sense tells you he specifically targeted the gay community because of the views that exist in the radical Islamic community with regard to the gay community.”

Rubio would appear to share those views “with regard to the gay community.” He is against same-sex marriage and made that opposition a key issue during his recent run for the GOP presidential nomination. He opposes legislation to make employment discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation illegal, supports “conversion therapy,” and is against the rights of gay persons to adopt children.

What, exactly, is the difference between the hatred spewed by radical Islamists and that by conservative Christian fundamentalists in the United States? How can any less responsibility be laid at the feet of the U.S. politicians and their supporters for violence and terror when they espouse the same forms of hatred and marginalization as those they blame for that terror? Why are we so quick to connect the lone gunman in Orlando with Islam and so unwilling to connect the “lone wolves” like Robert Dear, Angel Dillard, and Scott Roeder with the Christian right, or to hold young white star athletes accountable for the violence they commit against women? Why are we so loath to talk about rational limits on an AK-47 assault rifle, a weapon of war, when mass murders have become routine?

It may not be pretty and it may be hard to acknowledge, but as a country we are more like those we rush to condemn than we are willing to admit. We are a country founded on and fed by a strong historical current of patriarchy, white supremacy, systemic racism, misogyny, discrimination, and scapegoating, all of which in turn feeds hatred, violence, and terror. That is part of who we are as a nation. Pretending that is not the case is like pretending that your severely dysfunctional family is just fine, and that the violence you experience daily within it is just an aberration and not a fact of life.

But it is not an aberration. Christian fundamentalist hatred is not “better” than Islamic fundamentalist hatred. White American misogyny is not “better” than Islamic fundamentalist misogyny. Discrimination and the abrogation of rights of undocumented persons, people of color, LGBTQ people, or any other group by U.S. politicians is not different morally or otherwise than that practiced by “other” fundamentalists against marginalized groups in their own country.

We are what we do.

We like to act the victim, but we are the perpetrators. Until we come to grips with our own realities as a country and take responsibility for the ways in which politicians, the media, and corporate backers of both help bring about, excuse, and otherwise foster discrimination and hatred, we can’t even begin to escape the violence, and we certainly can’t blame anyone else. We must aspire to do better, but that won’t happen unless we take responsibility for our own part in the hatred at the start.

Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to clarify the details around the Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tweet.