Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sexual Assault Training Oversight And Prevention Act-- Preventing Members Of The U.S. Military Being Raped


McKeon is also wrong on rape

If you followed this blog during the election, you probably noticed that one of our most important objectives was to defeat reactionary and corrupt House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon. Close but no cigar. Progressive surgeon Lee Rogers came closer to beating McKeon-- despite no help whatsoever from the DCCC or the California Democratic Party (a motley tail the DCCC wags in congressional matters)-- than anyone else ever has. Hopefully, he'll run again in 2014 and finish the job he started. McKeon took 56% of the votes and Rogers won 44%, although Rogers beat him in the Democratic-leaning Antelope Valley section of the district.

One of the issues we looked at during the election was McKeon's role in covering up an epidemic of rapes of military personnel on U.S. bases. He's still the key figure in the cover-up. Keep in mind that most members of the Armed Forces who get raped are women-- but there are lots of backward, illiterate Southerners in the military-- so some of the victims are also men. I mention this because I don't want you to think that this is just an issue about women. Rape is rape, something Republicans still haven't learned, despite their losses in the 2012 election.

The Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that over half a million veterans have now experienced military sexual trauma (MST). One year ago, Congresswoman Jackie Speier introduced the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act-- or STOP Act (H.R. 3435) to help fix this epidemic. The MST legislation has 133 co-sponsors (including one Republican, Walter Jones) and hundreds of veterans supporting it, but McKeon adamantly refuses to allow it to be heard by the House Armed Services Committee. This is a statement made yesterday by Nancy Parrish president of Protect Our Defenders:
“Victims of sexual assault in the military are required to report their attack to a superior, not law enforcement or medical personnel. This has been and remains a recipe for disaster. A year ago, Protect Our Defenders brought survivors to Washington to celebrate the introduction of the STOP Act-- a solution to this epidemic supported by 133 representatives.

"Since the legislation was introduced a year ago, it is estimated that more than 19,000 service members have been raped or sexually assaulted. And only 13.5% of those victims will come forward, primarily out of fear of retaliation, and of those few who come forward, more than 80% if given the chance would not do so again. During the past year, there has been a powerful new film, The Invisible War with the personal stories behind the shocking statistics, a wide-ranging military sexual abuse scandal at Lackland Air Force Base and military brass has told Congress what they have been doing to address the epidemic of sexual assaults in our military is 'not working.'

"Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced several reforms to address what he calls a ‘silent epidemic’ of military sexual assaults, like bumping the reporting of rape and sexual assault further up the chain of command. But, it does little to address the problem. Many survivors, have made it clear that senior commanders are just as capable of covering up assaults and they frequently do. Commanders are incentivized to sweep problems under the rug, as their careers can be adversely affected if a rape or sexual assault is reported on their watch. And the DOD reports, ‘39% of women report that the perpetrator was a military person of higher rank and 23% indicated the offender was someone in their chain of command.’

"Congress has the power to fix the problem, but they have not.

"For real change to take place, our elected leaders must legislate fundamental reform. The STOP Act addresses the core issue. It removes the reporting, oversight, investigation, and victim care from the normal chain of command and places it in the hands of an unbiased office comprised of civilian and military experts. But, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon has yet to allow the STOP Act to even be heard by his committee. Today, we ask Rep. McKeon to honor our men and women in uniform and let the STOP Act and real solutions to the epidemic in our armed forces be heard.

"Congress has held 17 hearings over the past 25 years, but incremental steps taken by the Pentagon to address the problem of rape, sexual assault and harassment have failed. The prevalence of rape of both men and women in our military, the failure to prosecute perpetrators and the retaliation against victims continues to undermine readiness, unit cohesion and morale.”

Please watch this short clip below and then think about taking the pledge that the Protect Our Defenders Foundation has started as a way to not let McKeon worm out of this again. More info and the pledge campaign are here.

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