Military Rape: Let’s Get Real Justice!!!

From our President, Diana Egozcue:
NOW asks for your voice in support our military men and women!Chain of command is not the system in which to address rape/sexual abuse cases; it’s too easy for commanders to find themselves in deep conflicts of interest. Removing this power from commanders would help to insure that guilty parties are punished, and that personal relationships and cronyism do not influence justice. This neutrality would protect a commander’s authority with their troops by allowing the commander to support all of her or his subordinates in the maintenance of good order and discipline.

*   *   *

Senator Gillibrand (D-NY), in support of S.967 — Military Justice Improvement Act —  is working to persuade Congress and the Department of Defense to remove a commander’s authority to change convictions after a court martial has found the defendant(s) guilty. The bill addresses rape and sexual abuse, as well as other serious crimes. In some recent cases (in Aviano, Italy for example), commanders have overturned convictions even in cases of rape. Both male and female commanders in all branches of the military have been found to have reversed or altered sentences of the courts martial.

Chain of command is not the system in which to address rape/sexual abuse cases; it’s too easy for commanders to find themselves in deep conflicts of interest.

Our two Senators Warner and Kaine have not signed onto this bill as co-sponsors.

The senator’s aides tell me that they are waiting for a reconciliation with Senator McCaskill’s bill. That bill does not remove the commander’s authority. Senator Warner has voiced an opinion that removing this one power would interfere with command authority structure. This is the same reasoning that the military used while testifying before the Senate. I, personally, can disagree with this logic because I was an Air Force brat and an Army JAG wife. (The JAG Corps are the lawyers and judges for the military.) Removing this power from commanders would help to insure that guilty parties are punished, and that personal relationships and cronyism do not influence justice. This neutrality would protect a commander’s authority with their troops by allowing the commander to support all of her or his subordinates in the maintenance of good order and discipline.

NOW asks Virginians to participate in an action to help military women and men who are sexually assaulted to finally get justice. Military women and men are entitled to full legal protection.

Please call or e-mail Senators Warner and Kaine to ask them to co-sponsor Senator Gillibrand’s bill, S967. 

If you call, and are not comfortable talking to an aide, leave a voice mail. E-mail if that is easiest for you, but take action.

I’ve listed the senator’s contact information, and some talking points which you can use to persuade the senators to co-sponsor the bill. If you feel inspired, you can also use the talking points to write a letter to the editor of your local paper.

Senator Warner             (202) 224-2023                 www.warner.senate.gov

Senator Kaine                (202) 224-4024                  www.kaine.senate.gov

Talking Points

  •  Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (S.967) places sexual assault cases, and other serious crimes punishable by one year or more, outside the victim’s chain of command and in the hands of a trained military prosecutor.
  •  Sexual assault has become an epidemic in the U.S.  By the military’s own estimates, about 26,000 sexual assaults occurred throughout all branches of the armed forces in 2012 alone – a 35 percent increase over 2011.  However, only 3,374 assaults were reported in 2012, and only 300 were prosecuted.
  •  Currently, victims must report sexual assault to their commanders, who lack specialized training to deal with sexual trauma, and who often have relationships with the perpetrators.  Commanders routinely downplay sexual assaults, retaliate agains victims, protect perpetrators and have even reversed jury convictions after a case has gone all the way to trial.
  •  In 2012, 47 percent of sexual assault survivors who did not report the crime named fear of retaliation as the reason.  Sixty-two percent of women who did report said they later experienced some form of retaliation.
  •  Under S. 967, victims would report to an independent military prosecutor who is trained in sexual trauma and has no personal or professional relationship with the accused or accuser.
  •  Military brass oppose S.967 on the grounds that commanders need complete authority to maintain good order and discipline in the ranks.  But in fact, the current system undermines “good order and discipline in the ranks” because it puts decision making power in the hands of commanders who are untrained and often tainted by personal conflicts of interest, leaving victims without justice and perpetrators free to rape again and again, thus undermining a commander’s moral authority and perceived trustworthiness.

My thanks for your action to protect our military women and men,

Diana Egozcue, President
The Virginia Chapter of the National Organization for Women

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Dr. Simone Roberts
    Sep 11, 2013 @ 09:49:15

    Here’s my letter:

    Dear Honorable Senator_____,

    I write to you on the subject of S.967, the Military Justice Improvement Act, offered by Senator Gillibrand of New York. I whole heartedly support this change in the context of prosecuting and sentencing for serious crimes committed by military men or women.

    I’m a military fiancée, and from this position I’ve observed a good number of commanders at various ranks. I’ve observed military communities functioning in the context of the commander’s disciplinary decisions. I’m also a member of executive board of Virginia NOW, and a PhD in Feminist Philosophy and Poetics. So, I’m familiar with rape culture as a matter of cultural theory, political policy, and military communities.

    You should sign onto and throw your energetic support behind S.967.

    The primary objection, and the strongest one, is that removing these disciplinary powers concerning serious/major crimes from commanders, or from the military courts altogether, will result in a loss of command authority and the ability to maintain good order and discipline.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Commanders, as human beings, have proven unreliable in the consistent and objective application of discipline for major crimes like rape of another service member. I am sure you are familiar with recent cases such as the one in Aviano, Italy. Some commanders are ethical, and some aren’t. That’s just the way people are. Not all people promoted to powerful positions are actually good at handling power. The application of, and respect for, the law – however – allows for discipline and sentencing to have the force of the community behind it.

    Leaving the future of a rapist, or a rape victim, in the hands of one person is simply offends the American sense of justice. Victims are reticent to bring charges for fear their careers will be destroyed; and criminals continue to abuse and rape their compatriots with impunity.

    How is that a benefit to good order and discipline? I can’t be, and it is not.

    When a commander capriciously reverses a disciplinary action or criminal sentence, two things happen. Faith in that commander as a community leader crumbles. And then, so does morale. But a greater consequence follows as well: the criminal is emboldened, feels the protection of a commander behind his or her abuse and violence. That’s just basic human psychology.

    On the other hand, when commanders make fair and just decisions in cases that affect community and unit cohesion, morale only improves, and with it, effectiveness. Trust in a commander can only be established and maintained by such justice and fairness. All soldiers follow orders. But orders given by a commander who has earned complete respect by this fairness are followed with greater gusto and commitment.

    Our military women and men swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. In the case of major crimes, like rape of another service member or a civilian, we should let those laws determine the fate of the accused.

    The courts martial are a perfectly appropriate venue for the determination of these cases. They removed the burden and possible conflict of interest from the commander, and they bear the authority of the military code of justice.

    A good commander lets her or his subordinates take credit for their good works and achievements, and lets them take the punishment or recrimination for their crimes and misdeeds. But, it would appear that far too many who achieve command positions are people of such deep moral conviction that they are capable of this kind of justice and objectivity.

    Please support S.967, the Military Justice Improvement Act, with vigor and conviction. You’ll be on the right side of justice, and Virginia women will hear of your efforts. I can assure you of that. I look forward to proudly spread the word about the support for women and crime victims displayed by the good Senator from Virginia.

    Meanwhile, my thanks for your hard work on behalf of our commonwealth.

    Sincerely,
    Dr. Simone Roberts
    Web Editor, Virginia NOW
    cmteassistant@vanow.org

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    Reply

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