Words cannot express my outrage for the issue of widespread sexual assault in the military that's recently come to media attention over the past year. I truly can't even talk about it with a level-head and I think that's okay. I could not believe some of the commentary in the Senate hearing addressing it in June. All I could say was - Thank God for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand! Even Senator John McCain, the man who brought us Sarah Palin(!), can accurately express his disgust and indignation with a situation that is so clearly appalling and has been covered up for so long by a broken system which allows perpetrators and enablers to perpetuate and support this behavior.
Why is this happening just now? Sexual assault numbers are climbing - up in 2012 to 26,000 from an also terrible 19,000 in 2010. Brave survivors are coming forward like the ones in the documentary Invisible War that members of Congress and high-ranking leaders at the Pentagon viewed to understand this issue. Advocacy organizations like Service Women’s Action Network, and Protect our Defenders help spread the word and put a human face to this issue. As Senator McCain said in the June Senate Hearing, “this is an issue about defending basic human rights but it's also a long-term threat to the strength of our military.” These women love their country. They’ve signed up to die for it, for us and die for the men that then rape them. It’s been said again and again, this isn’t even discipline and order. I can’t respect an institution who tortures their own.
There are great examples of others within the global community responding appropriately to these types of abhorrent behaviors. One example was when a group of servicemen within the Australian army was discovered having filmed themselves engaging in sex (possibly under the influence of illicit drugs) with women and sending the videos to each other on government computers. Australian Lieutenant General David Morrison responded saying "You may find another employer where your attitude and behavior is acceptable, but I doubt it. The same goes for those who think that toughness is built on humiliating others," and "The standard you walk past is the standard you accept." I am not the first to notice, my American military falls short of such a response. The Australian investigation involved about 15 to 20 men. Here in the U.S. we are sitting on THOUSANDS of crimes unprosecuted.
I look at our country, my country, that I love, and I feel betrayed for these survivors. I want to say to my government “Don't tell me you are still learning how to navigate and discuss this sensitive issue. This is how you talk about it: It's a humiliation and the gravest type of dishonor to EVERY person past and present who has worn an American uniform. It is about leadership. It is about respect. It is about honor and bravery of what we would like to believe is the greatest military in all the world. This is not unclear. Every day spent not condemning sexual assault within our ranks (in action, not just in words), is another day accepting it. This is a country worth defending, one that fights to protect life and liberty.”
This week the Senate is expected to vote on the S. 967 Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013 (#MJIA) introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and currently has 38 cosponsors. If made law, the act will require that when a sexual assault is reported an independent military prosecutor would decide whether to prosecute the crime. This is a change from the current protocol, in which the decision of whether to prosecute moves up the chain of command, regardless of whether the assault survivor’s attacker was her/his commander. This act is a tremendous show of leadership that restores honor to the U.S. military and is a step toward giving rape survivors in our military the justice at which we in the civilian world at least have a chance. To tell your senator you support the Military Justice Improvement Act, call, email, tweet them! Here is a link to sign the petition. Your voices will be heard!