We'll start in the US and we'll start with violence. Women and men serving in the US military are supposed to develop into a cohesive unit, there is supposed to be support and trust within the ranks. A lot of time and money has been spent developing that model of socialization used in early training. But women and men serving in the US military also find themselves the victims of assault and rape from within the ranks. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office issued the following today:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT: Murray Speaks on Senate Floor on Bill to Combat Military Sexual Assault
Bill would provide greater victim resources while improving current DoD prevention programs
Pentagon released annual report today on sexual assaults in the military, shows the number of reported assaults rose to 26,000 in 2012
Watch video HERE.
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Tuesday, May 7th, 2013, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor on the Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013, which she introduced today with Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). In an effort to reduce sexual assaults within the military and help the victims of this crime, the Combating MSA Act would address a number of gaps within current law and policy and build upon the positive steps the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has taken in recent years. According to DoD estimates, there were about 19,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2010 alone. Of these, 2,723 servicemembers reported these assaults, leaving thousands of victims to face the aftermath alone as their assailants escape justice. Today the Pentagon released its annual report on sexual assaults in the military, which shows the number of assaults rose to 26,000 in 2012. Of these, 2,949 servicemembers reported these assaults.
“When our best and our brightest put on a uniform and join the United States Armed Forces, they do so with the understanding that they will sacrifice much in the name of defending our country and its people. However, it’s unconscionable to think that entertaining unwanted sexual contact from within the ranks is now part of that equation,” said Senator Murray. “Not only are we subjecting our men and women to this disgusting epidemic, but we’re also failing to provide the victims with any meaningful support system once they have fallen victim to these attacks. And while I applaud recent efforts by the Department of Defense to turn the tide on this mounting crisis, we must do more to root out the culture that fosters this behavior and provide substantive assistance to those who face these tragedies alone. I am proud to join Senator Ayotte in introducing the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act, to reverse this trend and establish the necessary means for victims to take action against their attackers. It’s inexcusable for us to wait any longer to address this issue and I’m glad this bipartisan legislation is taking meaningful steps to do right by our nation’s heroes.”
"The services have struggled for decades with pervasive sexual assault in the ranks,” said Anu Bhagwati, Executive Director of the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN). “SWAN has been at the forefront of demanding institutional changes that would help improve this crisis and transform military culture. The Combating Military Sexual Assault Act introduced today by Senator Patty Murray and senator Kelly Ayotte contains many provisions that will give the military the tools it needs to combat this widespread problem. Common-sense solutions like providing victims with their own designated lawyers, criminalizing sexual relationships between basic training instructors and students, and making sure that our National Guard troops have access to the same resources that active duty service members have are critical in making sure that survivors are supported and that offenders will be better prosecuted."
“The 380,000 member Military Officers Association of America strongly endorses the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013,” said MOAA national President, VADM Norb Ryan, USN-ret. “Preventing sexual assault is a duty of everyone in the chain of command. This legislation will increase support for sexual assault victims and strengthen policies and procedures for such cases in our nation’s Armed Forces.”
More information on the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act HERE.
Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:
“Sexual assault continues to plague the ranks of our military services. And it is absolutely unconscionable that a fellow servicemember, the person you rely on to have your back and to be there for you, would commit such a terrible crime. It is simply appalling they could commit such a personal violation of their brother or sister in uniform. Even worse is the prevalence of these crimes. Just today, we’re hearing the alarming statistics that the number of cases has increased by more than a third since 2010. And for the estimated 26,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2012, less than 3,000 of them were reported. What’s even more startling is that of those who bravely came forward to report the abuse, an astounding 62 percent of them were retaliated against in one way or another.”
“Recently, I was told a very disturbing story by a female servicemember from the National Guard in my home state of Washington. After being sexually assaulted during her monthly drill on a military base, she took all the necessary steps, including calling the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. But when she called, she was told that because the assault happened during monthly drill, and not on active duty, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator could not help her –that those services were only reserved for those on active duty. This is absolutely unacceptable. When one of our men or women in uniform is the victim of sexual assault, and they have the courage to come forward and ask for help, the answer can never be, ‘Sorry, there are regulations and there is nothing I can do for you.’”
“This bill is one step to address the crisis we have in our Armed Forces. And it needs to be done now. And yesterday’s news that the Air Force’s chief of sexual assault prevention was arrested for sexual assault is another reminder that we need change the culture around this issue.”
Deputy Press Secretary
Deputy Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510
We'll note the speech in full at the end of the snapshot. The ongoing problem that Senator Murray and Senator Ayotte are addressing got more attention yesterday due to an arrest that led the US Defense Dept to release the following statement from spokesperson George Little:
This evening Secretary [Chuck] Hagel spoke to Air Force Secretary Donley about allegations of misconduct involving an Air Force officer who had been responsible for the service's sexual assault and prevention efforts and was removed today from his position pending the outcome of an investigation. Secretary Hagel expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively.
Secretary Hagel has been directing the department's leaders to elevate their focus on sexual assault prevention and response, and he will soon announce next steps in our ongoing efforts to combat this vile crime.
Sexual assault has no place in the United States military. The American people, including our service members, should expect a culture of absolutely no tolerance for this deplorable behavior that violates not only the law, but basic principles of respect, honor, and dignity in our society and its military. Secretary Hagel is firmly committed to upholding the highest standards of behavior in America's armed forces and will take action to see this through.
From yesterday's snapshot:
David Martin (CBS News) reports that Air Force Lt Col Jeff Krusinski was arrested after he "approached a female victim in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks." Martin notes the alleged victim is said to have fought off Krusinski and his mug shot "shows signs of struggle on his face" -- cuts and scratches. Jennifer Hlad (Stars and Stripes) identifies the 41-year-old accused as "the chief of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention and response branch." Jim Miklaszewski, Courtney Kube and Tracy Connor (NBC News) notes that Kursinski had held that position for two months. Luis Martinez (ABC News) quotes Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek stating the accused "was responsible for writing plans and programs that supported victims of sexual assault. He worked on prevention programs for sexual assault." Barbara Starr and Greg Seaby (CNN) add, "Arlington County police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said the woman did not know her alleged attacker."
Again, we'll close the snapshot with Senator Murray's remarks in full. Rape and assault are about degrading and demeaning, they're crimes intended to hurt.
This morning, I wrote "SF Pride don't listen to the Tammy Bruce of San Diego" which included this 'offensive' section:
There's one in San Francisco. A huge one because San Francisco opposed the illegal war because it was an illegal war. So, yes, Bradley's whistle blowing is supported. But Bradley's not just a gay man who was targeted by the US government. (Targeted? I'm referring to making a known gay man be naked and visible for all men and women to see as they parade through the brig. That was done intentionally in the same way that the US military used nudity as shame and embarrassment at Abu Ghraib.) He's a man with transgender issues. While other areas of the country are self-congratulating over their support of marriage equality, in San Francisco the battle for equality doesn't stop with that one issue. Lisa and the board had no idea what a grenade they were stepping on when they stabbed the San Francisco community and Bradley in the back.
How do I know it was offensive? Shirley slid over the e-mail which insists, "One of the most disturbing aspects of this whole imbroglio for me is how facily and uncritically the LGBTQ community has bought into the MSM (Main Stream Media) spin concerning Manning's motives for what he did." Bradley's spoken of what his motives were. We've quoted Bradley on that. I haven't seen the LGBTQ media get it wrong but, admittedly, I haven't read every piece of coverage. If someone in the LGBTQ media got it wrong, maybe you should have the guts to name that outlet?
The man from Queretaro Mexico then wants to give me a tutorial I never requested while insisting, "So Assange and Scahill paint a very different picture of Manning than that of the ditzy little drag queen created by the MSM, which the LGBTQ community has so blithely and readily bought into."
The LGBTQ media doesn't portray Bradley as "the ditzy little drag queen." If someone's seeing Bradley as "the ditzy little drag queen," that would be you and other homophobes. That statement of yours is filled with hatred.
As for the transgender issue, you're ignorance probably goes to your sources but you are incredibly ignorant.
"Bradley Manning and how GID and gay are not interchangeable" went up here December 17, 2011. We have covered Bradley here since June 7, 2010. Until December 17, 2011, we never mentioned the transgender issues. Not because we weren't aware of them but because that's not an issue you raise if the person in question isn't raising it. We let Wired and others run with that and never linked to their items on it. December 17, 2011, we addressed the issue of gender identity disorder here and did so because it was the issue David Coombs, Bradley's attorney of record, raised in the military court the day before. When he raised it, he created a hysteria among some Bradley supporters which we dealt with in "Whose sexual discomfort?"
"The ditzy little drag queen" is not a term I've used at this site. I've never questioned Bradley's intelligence and I don't tremble at the thought that a man (or woman) might dress in drag for fun or because that's who they are -- transgender, transsexual, transvestite, it doesn't matter to me. I don't tremble and stomp my feet and let my face turn red with hate. I'm not sure ____ can make the same claim.
____, you're the one having a problem that Bradley's (a) gay and (b) has gender issues. To you, that indicates 'damage.' That's not true of everyone. And once his defense elected to make that an issue in court, your discomfort really didn't matter.
____ felt the need to share a long passage from an interview that Chris Hedges just did with Julian Assange.
Julian Assange: But instead people go … they look at all the, ya know, they say, “Oh, he’s a homosexual—this is the answer.” Ten percent, 10 percent, of the U.S. military are homosexuals; at least 50 percent are from broken homes. OK? You take those two factors together, that gets you down to say 5 percent; explanatory power, there’s 5 million people with active security clearances, so you’re down to what, 25? No, you’re down to 250,000 people. You’ve got to get down from 250,000 to one, now.
I have no idea why anyone would take Julian Assange seriously on the above issues. He's accused of rape. When WikiLeaks did a recent release, we covered it here and one of Julian's roster of attorneys called to say how happy he was with what went up here. Really? I've told them all along that if they want to save Julian Assange, the answer is to focus on the work. You can't personalize it, he can't be 'warmed' up and made photo pretty. The only thing that will save Julian Assange at this point is if WikiLeaks does its job. That also means he doesn't sit for wide ranging interviews. If he's speaking to the press, he's speaking about WikiLeaks and what purpose it serves.
He's stated he hasn't met Bradley so there's no reason for him to talk about Bradley -- especially not when he's making remarks that appear to express homophobia. (And is Assange obsessed with the term "homosexual" or does he think he's being cute?) Maybe the best forum for same-sex issues isn't three middle-aged straight men giggling? (Assange, Hedges and Michael Ratner.)
Jeremy Scahill is held up by ____ from Mexico as someone we should be listening to. You know what, we did. Once upon a time. We used to highlight Jeremy here all the time. What changed that? An 'independent' reporter needs to be "independent." So if you're covering politics, you need to be fair, yes, but you also need to be honest. When he became Samantha Power's "press toy" (her term, Jeremy), she couldn't keep her mouth shut about it, about how she could tell him and Amy Goodman anything and get in print and on air. She was the 'source' for his Blackwater stories, for example. Remember when Jeremy wanted a pledge from the candidates about not using Blackwater if they became President? Hillary made the pledge, Barack wouldn't. Jeremy's follow up article attacked Hillary an offered excuses why Barack couldn't make the promise. The unidentified source on that was Samantha Power. Again, I found out because she couldn't keep her mouth shut. She found it too entertaining that she had Amy Goomdan and Bradley Manning "wrapped around my fingers." Right after this is the period where Amy Goodman will go on WBAI and start campaigning for Samantha Power to be the next Secretary of State.
So, no, we're not interested in Jeremy Scahill or the damage he allegedly said Bradley caused with the release. He's the 'reporter' who let War Hawk Samantha Power call the shots and he's the 'reporter' who said he wanted a promise on Blackwater from the candidates but when the candidate he was secretly backing wouldn't make the promise and the candidate he hated did, his follow up basically nullified his previous aticle. I'd argue that his tainted relationship with Samantha Power nullified his entire career.
Bradley being gay is so hard on so many. We've seen it before. Most infamously, we saw it in the hours after 9-11 when Mark Bingham was a hero and then, bit by bit, got disappeared. The press found out that the hero was gay and they quickly walked away from him. In fairness, maybe they feared Bingham's family would sue? (That was not a problem. Alice Hoagland was and is very proud of her son.) But when Sara Jane Moore followed Squeaky Fromme in attempting to assassinate then-President Gerald Ford, Oliver Sipple saved Ford. Sipple was happy with the press that portrayed him as an ex-Marine. He wasn't happy when the San Francisco Chronicle noted he was also gay. A lengthy lawsuit ensued and, possibly, the press feared something similar.
There's nothing wrong with Bradley. Being gay isn't a sickness. It's not a 'bad thing.' It's who someone is. The failure to accept who Bradley is isn't on Bradley. It's on the people who get this 'icky feeling' in their stomachs that they can't explain (but may be latent urges manifesting).
On the topic of SF Pride and Bradley, the board issued a statement today. No, that's not the end of it.
On the trial he's facing, David Dishneau (AP) reported yesterday afternoon, "A military judge, Col. Denise Lind, has ordered what prosecutors say is an unprecedented closed hearing Wednesday at Fort Meade to help her decide how much of Manning's upcoming trial should be closed to protect national security."
Bradley tried to shine a spotlight on Iraq and Afghanistan. Naturally, that's the last thing that so many want to focus on. Kelley B. Vlahos (Antiwar.com) notes what's going on and why the United States should be focusing:
According to UNICEF, 5.2 percent of children under the age of 17 experienced the death of one or more parent during the 2003 war and aftermath. The number of orphans in Iraq vary, with estimates at 800,000, all the way up to 3.5 million. The state-run orphanages are a scandal, with no investment and no child protection laws in place to speak of. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and non-profits struggle, but find it hard to keep up with the demand, they say. According to UNICEF back in November, one-third of Iraqi’s 16.6 million children are lacking basic fundamental rights, like access to physical and mental health care, education, safety against domestic violence, and treatment for disabilities.
While we cannot expect the American public to focus on the tragedy of every child in every wretched place of the earth, Iraq is a particularly special tragedy because America caused it, then walked away. There is no other way to describe it when War Child, in its aforementioned report, points to the fact that international aid to Iraq went from $20 billion in 2005 to $1.5 billion in 2011. We know the U.S is responsible for most of the total aid, yet when the military pulled up stakes in 2009, the reconstruction and development effort largely went with it, leaving behind unfinished, unsustainable projects, and a nation broken by the occupation and civil war. Even Ryan Crocker, loyal Washington diplomat and former ambassador to both Iraq and Afghanistan, recently described the war/post-war ethos thusly: “let’s punch out their lights and realign their society…and then when we find out the latter is more difficult than we expect, we say ‘OK, let’s go somewhere else.’”
The Australian carries a wire service report which quotes UNICEF's Iraq representative Marzio Babille stating that "all boys between the ages of 14 and 17 -- several were said to have received severe gunshot wounds." What's Babille speaking of? the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija when Nouri's federal forces stormed it. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. AFP has been reporting 53 dead for several days now -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover. Over the weekend, UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured). AKI notes that the youngest killed at the protest was a 13-year-old and that all who were killed died from gunshot wounds. Yassin al-Sabawi (Kirkuk Now) reports, "The administration council of Hawija has halted their duties as a tribute to the violence but the schools and service establishments are open." Ali Abel Sadah (Al-Monitor) notes another response, youths are arming themselves in Anbar, Kirkuk and Mosul "to protect protesters, should they be subjected to an attack similar to the one that occured in Hawija." Sadah adds that "carrying weapons is necessary, according to tribal traditions in Iraq. After tribal members are killed, their relatives believe they have to avenge their death and defend their peers."
Al Mada reports that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi is calling for Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi to formally question Saadun al-Dulaimi who is fronting the Ministry of Defense for Nouri al-Maliki. Iraqiya bested Nouri's State of Law in the 2010 elections. Nouri has refused to nominate anyone to head the Ministry of Defense so he retains control while insisting that Saadun al-Dulaimi is the 'acting' official in charge. Allawi states Saadun slumbered in "deep sleep" while Nouri's SWAT forces carried out the massacre. Allawi also characterized Saadun's charge remarks on Sunday as "irresponsible."
From yesterday's snapshot:
Yesterday, AFP reported on the puppet Nouri tries to pretend is in charge of the Ministry of Defense (Nouri is in charge). That would be Saadun al-Dulaimi and he was calling the protesters terrorists and foreign agents or in control of foreign agents -- Basically, he was calling them everything but Iraqi citizens exercising their legal right to peacefully protest. His crazy did not go unnoticed. Alsumaria reports that the Parliament now wants al-Dulaimi to answer some questions about the Hawija massacre.
In the first six days of the month, Iraq Body Count counts 100 violent deaths in Iraq. The violence continues today, 2 workers in a Baghdad car repair shop were shot dead (guns had silencers), a Mosul roadside bombing left two police officers injured, 1 police officer was shot dead on the downtown streets of Falluja, the corpse of 1 of Nouri's security forces was discovered near Adhem (gunshots), Nouri's federal police shot dead 2 rebels outside Mosul, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 man and left one woman injured, an Amara clash left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and another injured, a clash in Tikrit left four police officers killed and a fifth injured, 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul, and a sticky bomb planted on the car of a Sana al-Messaoudi, a Nineveh Provincial Council member, exploded in the garage of the Nineveh Provincial Council killing the driver.
All Iraq News notes that one of the first decisions the legislative body made was to allocated one billion Iraqi dinars to the provinces effected by flooding. From yesterday's snapshot:
Over the weekend, it rained in Wasit Province. Heavy rains. What does that mean? All Iraq News explained displace families as a result of the flooding: "Dozens of families were forced to evacuate their residences leaving their livestock behind, heading towards Sheikh Saad district of southern Wasit province since their villages and their mud-hut houses were swept due to rain floods." As we were noting Friday, "Anytime heavy rains are forecast, various areas of Iraq have to worry about flooding because Nouri's failed in his seven years as prime minister to fix the sewage system." Alsumaria noted that the International Red Crescent Society has helped over 200 families Saturday in Maysan Province who also saw the heavy rains flood their streets and homes. Alsumaria reports that the Iraqi Red Crescent Society was conducting air relief missions in Diyala Province while Nouri's Cabinet allocated 100 million dinars each for flood relief in Wasit, Maysan and Dhi Qar Provinces. (That's roughly $86,000 for each province in US dollars.) Al Rafidyan reports that a natural damn has collapsed in Maysan Province and led to 61 villages being flooded while yesterday, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society announced, 4 people (two of which were children) died in Wasit when their homes collapsed due to flooding. Over 50 other homes have collapsed in Wasit and Maysan due to flooding in the last days.
Al Mada reports that the flooding has cut off roads, including one in to Baghdad, that families have been left standing out in the open, unprotected from the rain, some of the luckier ones are in tents set up by the Iraqi Red Crescent Society or seeking shelter in public government buildings. The effected areas are inhabited by hundreds of thousands of people.
Nouri's failures are so many. Including the 'magic' wands that detect bombs . . . but don't. And are still being used in Iraq under Nouri's orders. Dar Addustour reports that the Ministry of the Interior (over the police) is insisting that politicians should not be talking about this and that talk is politicizing the issue. The issues are that a fortune was spent on 'magic' wands that don't work, that in 2009 the wands were exposed as fake, that the man who made and sold them got convicted last month in a British court and yet Nouri still orders these wands that do nothing to be used. The National Alliance is a Shi'ite political body. Alsumaria reports that their MP Shirwan Waeli is describing the use of the wands as "genocide."
Which is what it is -- that or "assisted murder." If you're ordering the police to use these wands that don't work, you're not just having them use a device that does nothing. You're also grabbing the time that they could be using to prevent violence and wasting it, throwing it away. Nouri needs to face answers in Parliament about this -- as Moqtada al-Sadr said on Saturday.
Tomorrow is supposed to be a historic day for Turkey and the PKK. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." Dropping back to April 29th:
Saturday, Hurriyet Daily News noted the withdrawal is supposed to begin May 8th. Ayla Jean Yackley (Reuters) reported, "Turkish Prime Minister [Recep] Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday hailed the planned withdrawal of Kurdish rebel fights from Turkey as the end of a 'dark era' but warned against potential sabotage of a historic peace process." World Bulletin added, "As part of measures taken to prevent any confrontation or clash between Turkish security forces and the members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) while the PKK is withdrawing from Turkey, thermal cameras will be turned off, military observation towers will be evacuated and Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will be deactivated, the Sabah daily reported on Thursday." If it takes, this will be historic and credit will go not only to PKK leaders and Erdogan but also to the peace activists in Turkey who have called for years now for an end to the violence and to the leaders in the KRG who have not been properly credited by the press for their role in the dialogue.
As Alsumaria notes, the withdrawal is supposed to begin tomorrow. Caroline Maloney (Al Jazeera -- link is video) reports ethnic Kurds in Turkey are returning to villages and "hopeful about this peace process," as one explains. Another, Salih Behcet, tells Maloney, "We are so happy because of these developments. We have witnessed many bad things since 1993. Our children were arrested, some of them killed, from 1993 by Turkish soldiers and Kurdish rebels. We don't want to see the same suffering from now on." Patrick Cockburn (Independent via CounterPunch) adds:
Overall, there is an expectant mood among PKK militants and the Kurds in general in the belief that the political geography of the Middle East is changing in their favour. The 20th century treated them harshly, the post-First World War settlement denying Kurds self-determination and turning them into a persecuted and unrecognised minority without a state, spread between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. So far the 21st century is turning out to be much more friendly to the 30 million Kurds in the region. Svelte Iraqi Kurdish politicians sitting in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), use almost the same cautiously enthusiastic words as grizzled PKK military commanders in claiming that the Kurds are politically stronger than ever and can no longer be marginalised and persecuted as second-class citizens. “There is a great awakening of the Kurds in the whole region,” says Mr Ok. “The Turkish state and army tried to finish us and they failed.”
And it is not just in Turkey that the news for the Kurds is good. In Iraq, the Kurds are better able to assert their national independence than many members of the United Nations. There is an economic boom as foreign oil companies pour in. The civil war in Syria is enabling the Kurdish 10 per cent of the population concentrated in the north of the country to seize control of their towns and villages and lay the basis for future autonomy.
We're closing with Senator Patty Murray's speech on the Senate floor today:
“ I believe the great strength of our military is in the character and dedication of our men and women who wear the uniform.
“It is the courage of these Americans, to volunteer to serve, that is the Pentagon’s greatest asset.
“I know it is said a lot, but take a moment to really think about it.
“Our servicemembers volunteer to face danger, to put their lives on the line, to protect the country and all its people.
“When we think of those dangers, we think of IEDs.
“We think of battles with insurgents.
“Many of whom are so cowardly and so evil they refuse to wear a uniform, and they seek to kill innocent civilians.
“But there are other dangers as well.
“Dangers that cannot be accepted, and none of our courageous servicemembers should ever have to face.
“Sexual assault continues to plague the ranks of our military services.
“And it is absolutely unconscionable that a fellow servicemember, the person you rely on to have your back and to be there for you, would commit such a terrible crime.
“It is simply appalling they could commit such a personal violation of their brother or sister in uniform.
“Even worse is the prevalence of these crimes.
“Just today, we’re hearing the alarming statistics that the number of cases has increased by more than a third since 2010.
“And for the estimated 26,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2012, less than 3,000 of them were reported.
“What’s even more startling is that of those who bravely came forward to report the abuse, an astounding 62 percent of them were retaliated against in one way or another.
“And according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, about one in five female veterans treated by VA has suffered from military sexual trauma. One in five.
“That is certainly not the act of a comrade. It is not in keeping with the ethos of any of the services. And it can no longer be tolerated.
“We have still not done enough to put an end to these shameful acts.
“Well, today I am taking action to change that.
“Today, Senator Ayotte and I joined together to introduce the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013.
“This bipartisan legislation will make several vital improvements to protect our servicemembers, to assist victims, and to punish the criminals.
“The Combatting Military Sexual Assault Act would create new category of legal advocates, called Special Victims’ Counsels, who would be responsible for advocating on behalf of the interests of the victim.
“These SVCs would also advise the victim on the range of legal issues they may face.
“For example, when a young Private First Class is intimidated into not reporting a sexual assault by threatening her with unrelated legal charges -- like underage drinking -- this new advocate would be there to protect her and tell her the truth.
“This bill would also enhance the responsibilities and authority of DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office – also known as SAPRO– to provide better oversight of efforts to combat military sexual assault across the Armed Forces.
“SAPRO would also be required to regularly track and report on a range of MSA statistics, including assault rates, the number of cases brought to trial, and compliance within each of the individual services.
“Some of this data collection and reporting is already being done – so this requirement would not be more burdensome, but it would give that office statutory authority to track and report to us on the extent of the problem.
“The Combating Military Sexual Assault Act would also require sexual assault cases to be referred to the next superior competent authority for court martial when there is a conflict of interest in the immediate chain of command.
“This will help ensure sexual assault allegations get a fair, impartial, and thorough investigation.
“And the President of the Military Officers Association of America agrees saying, ‘Preventing sexual assault is a duty of everyone in the chain of command. This legislation will increase support for sexual assault victims and strengthen policies and procedures for such cases in our nation’s Armed Forces.’
“This legislation would also prohibit sexual contact between military instructors and servicemembers during basic training, its equivalent, or within 30 days after the end of training.
“As we have seen with disturbing frequency at places like Lackland Air Force Base, or at the Air Force Academy, new servicemembers are too often taken advantage of and abused.
“In these settings, new servicemembers have every aspect of their lives controlled by their instructors.
“While this is appropriate for military training, in this type of setting, it is entirely inappropriate for senior servicemembers to seek a sexual relationship with such a junior subordinate.
“And it is our view that it is impossible for a servicemember to freely give consent in that setting.
“The bill would also ensure Sexual Assault Response Coordinators are available to members of the National Guard and Reserve at all times.
“Recently, I was told a very disturbing story by a female servicemember from the National Guard in my home state of Washington.
“After being sexually assaulted during her monthly drill on a military base, she took all the necessary steps, including calling the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.
“But when she called, she was told that because the assault happened during monthly drill, and not on active duty, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator could not help her –that those services were only reserved for those on active duty.
“This is absolutely unacceptable.
“When one of our men or women in uniform is the victim of sexual assault, and they have the courage to come forward and ask for help, the answer can never be, “Sorry, there are regulations and there is nothing I can do for you.”
“Now, this bill is one step to address the crisis we have in our Armed Forces.
“And it needs to be done now.
“And yesterday’s news that the Air Force’s chief of sexual assault prevention was arrested for sexual assault is another reminder that we need change the culture around this issue.
“But I want to be very clear the military has taken some steps on its own.
“For instance, I am looking forward to seeing Secretary Hagel’s proposal on how to reform Article 60 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“As I think most of my colleagues know, under Article 60, the convening authority of a court martial is empowered to dismiss the judgment of a court martial and overturn their verdict.
“Many of my colleagues, myself included, have had serious concerns about how this authority has been used in sexual assault cases.
“I want to thank the Senator from New Hampshire for her advocacy on this issue, and for her help in putting this legislation together.
“I also want to thank Representative Tim Ryan for his leadership in introducing the companion bill in the other chamber.
“When I asked Navy Secretary Ray Maybus about the sexual assault epidemic, I was glad to hear that ‘concern’ wasn’t a strong enough word to describe how he feels about this problem.
“He said he is angry about it.
“And I know many of us here share this feeling and want to put a stop to it.
“So, I am hopeful both chambers can work quickly to do right by our nation’s heroes.
“Because when our best and our brightest put on a uniform and join the United States Armed Forces, they do so with the understanding they will sacrifice much in the name of defending our country and its people.
“But that sacrifice should not have to come in the form of unwanted sexual contact from within the ranks.
“Thank you Madam President, and I ask that the text of the bill be included in the record.”
stars and stripes