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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand meets members of the 106th Rescue Wing, Westhampton Beach, NY.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
The military leadership's view of sexual assault in the military is roughly this: It's a problem, we've failed to fix it, but we should be allowed to keep doing the same things that have failed to fix it. That means fierce resistance to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's bill taking decisions about sexual assault prosecutions out of the hands of military commanders and putting them in the hands of people with legal training. But now, Darren Samuelsohn reports that three retired generals are getting behind Gillibrand's plan:
“After carefully thinking about this issue, I believe the Defense Department’s time to solve the problem on its own has expired,” [retired Lt. Gen. Claudia] Kennedy wrote. “Civilian and uniformed military leaders have had absolute discretion and power to make changes, but have not fixed the problem and have not stopped retaliation suffered by survivors who report the crimes committed against them.”

“Failure to achieve these reforms would be a further tragedy to an already sorrowful history of inattention and ineptitude concerning military sexual assault,” [retired Brig. Gen. Loree] Sutton added.

[Retired Brig. Gen. David] McGinnis, who served during Obama’s first term as acting assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, told Gillibrand her approach would help address “the historic lack of sincerity within the Department of Defense on issues relating to women in the military.”

"Sorrowful history of inattention and ineptitude," "historic lack of sincerity." Those are some strong words, but accurate ones. All three get to the heart of the need for change: The military has been told many times to prevent and respond to sexual assault more effectively and to stop retaliation against the victims of crimes. That hasn't happened, completely undercutting the claims that no, for real, seriously, this time things will be different.

Tell the U.S. Senate to take action against sexual assault in the military by passing Sen. Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 09:34 AM PDT.

Also republished by This Week in the War on Women, Military Community Members of Daily Kos, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  "Well, that didn't work, let's try it some more." (10+ / 0-)

    It's bewildering how anybody can think that's a reasonable thing to suggest.  They're not even saying "Let's try something new that isn't this particular plan"; they're saying "Let us keep doing what we've been doing, only this time it'll work."

    All praise to Gillibrand and I hope her bill gets passed.

    •  X2 (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thomask, LilithGardener, Remediator

      nosotros no somos estúpidos

      by a2nite on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 03:49:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I am so proud of my junior Senator! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      She is hard working, and willing to take a stand. It's hard to remember how sorry I was to see Hillary move on.

      Senator Gillibrand rocks!

      "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

      by LilithGardener on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 05:18:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Define "work". (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      molecularlevel, ksuwildkat

      Rape isn't any bigger a problem in the armed forces than it is in the civilian world. In fact the data suggests the rate of sexual assault is slightly lower in the military than the general population. Now, there's alot to unpack there. First of all, apples to apples comparisons of this sort of thing are damn near impossible. Also, since people with criminal records are generally barred from joining the military you would expect there to be lower crime rates anyway.

      Personally, I find it troubling that the rate of sexual assault isn't WAY lower on base than it is on the streets. But the fact is, you can never completely eliminate the criminal element from any population. You can only try to reduce it. So when I hear about the epidemic of sexual violence in the military and how out of control it is, I scratch my head a bit. It's all just too sensationalized for me to take seriously.

      It's a fact that women are more likely to get raped on a college campus than on a military installation. So while I of course agree that whatever the brass is doing wrong should be corrected and improvements are always welcome... I have to ask, what is your baseline for determining if it's "working"? A sexual assault rate of zero? That's never going to happen.

      You can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America.

      by Eric Stratton on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 08:47:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  about time we heard some noise on this (2+ / 0-)

    even if they are retired generals.

    "Kossacks are held to a higher standard. Like Hebrew National hot dogs." - blueaardvark

    by louisev on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 11:52:05 AM PDT

  •  Regarding (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener, qofdisks
    an already sorrowful history of inattention and ineptitude concerning military sexual assault
    I have a case in point. At one of my later duty stations, a junior enlisted man working in the same office in which I did (let's call him "Marty") smoked a bunch of marijuana one night, went outside to wander around the station, saw an enlisted woman who was out running,  and started running after her due to a major attack of lust. After a chase, she managed to get to her room in the barracks before "Marty" could catch her. All of this was admitted by "Marty". And yet, nothing was done about it.

    The more people I encounter, the more I appreciate our cats.

    by Old Sailor on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 03:53:56 PM PDT

  •  The shocking male rape statistic! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener, qofdisks

    If the rape statistics weren’t shocking enough
    Victims of sex assaults in military are mostly men!
    Military the employer of last resort is little more than an alternative prison...

    •  Employer of last resort? (0+ / 0-)

      What the heck are you talking about.  When was the last time you had a conversation with a soldier?  I talk to them every day and 99.9% of them are fine people with skills any employer would want.  The "horrible" military assault problem is a problem with less than 1% of all who serve.  What part of your life is good 99.9% of the time?  Most college would love to have our "problem" with assaults.

      Bottom line is I do what you can't.  There is only a 30% chance you would qualify for the most open job in the military.  From that 30% my branch selects 1%.  From that selection we reject 30%.  From that less than half stay more than 4 years.  Chances are you couldnt make a day in my Army.

      There is your rock, crawl back under.

      It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

      by ksuwildkat on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 06:34:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agree (0+ / 0-)

        It's a problem, but the public gets the wrong impression. I'm ex-AF Vietnam, my son is currently Special Forces Medic. Most people couldn't make it three days in Basic, let alone three years in SF training.

        The military (generals) needed to get ahead of this sexual assault problem years ago and couldn't seem to do it, that worries me. Failure of leadership. My son is petrified of getting pulled over for a DWI. He would be out on his ass after 5 years in a heartbeat. But Sexual assault? Way too much and the military has to fix this or give up the right of command and allow Civilians in. And that's not a good solution, means Generals can't control their own troops. Very Bad Precedent. They've had plenty of time to fix this.

        I was a company/squadron commander and nobody under my command would get away with any of this, and that was 35 years ago. Any issues with adjudicated Sexual assault and they would have been cleaning latrines for the rest of their tour. or be gone. period.

        We didn't have so many women serving then, though... but my best girlfriend for many years was an AF Surgical Nurse - same rank as me...and outranked me by about a month...

        Without geometry, life is pointless. And blues harmonica players suck.

        by blindcynic on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 08:23:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Preception vs reality (0+ / 0-)

          There is a perception that sexual assault is a huge problem in the military.  The reality is that we have 1.4 million active duty military and 3300 reported assaults.  Even given a worst case 10x as many real vs reports we are talking about .02%.  Any mayor of any large city would be BRAGGING about .02%.  Heck it would be the center of their campaign.  Even it it were 10 times worse that that we are talking about .2% - Also known as being 99.8% successful.  

          That is reality.  Reality is we have 99.98% (or better) of the military doing the right thing every day.  Name any other large organization that would consider scrapping what they are doing now because they were "only" 99.98% successful.

          It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

          by ksuwildkat on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 11:57:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  If we can somehow tie improvement to funding, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the military will fall all over themselves to do what they should have been doing all along.

  •  It's all about control (0+ / 0-)

    I was at an event recently where a group of military women discussed what could be done to change the culture in order to reduce assaults, harassment, and discrimination.  Number one recommendation?  Take prosecution & investigation of all these cases (not just assault) out of the chain of command.

    I then listened to several senior people carefully "mansplain" how Terribly Important it was to keep these all within the chain of command.  They said gravely, "It might be harder to get convictions."

    While this sounds "terrible", actually what it means is that the chain of command would no longer be able to bend the law to their will.  People on both sides of accusations would finally get a fair trial.  The command would not be able to "gang up" on one side or the other, picking sides and essentially pre-determining the outcome.  Judges could not be pressured to "get convictions" for junior personnel or show leniency for seniors.  I feel this would result in more people being willing to come forward - and more importantly, in helping to eliminate this sort of violence, which breeds when people think such actions are all part of "being part of the gang".

    One assault survivor said the reason for not coming forward earlier was that there was nobody trusted to tell: the abuser was their supervisor - who was close-knit with the designated advocates, the chaplain, the chain of command, and the majority of other personnel at the unit. It is far easier in these cases for everyone to attack the character of the accused (one person at fault) than admit that a number of people within the unit, including themselves, were either guilty or complicit (perhaps dozens of people at fault).  An assault is rarely an isolated event.  Often there is a pattern of behavior or climate at the unit that makes such violence acceptable, permissible, or even desirable.  No unit will admit that voluntarily.

    People in the military should have the right to a fair trial.  We have got to get this out of the hands of the military chain of command.  Who knows what other egregious behavior is being swept under the rug by the same "self-governing" system?  Kudos to Sen. Gillibrand.

    •  Please explain in detail (0+ / 0-)

      how you are going to have separate justice systems for "sex crimes" and all other.  DETAIL.

      I have read MANY diaries about this topic and yet NOT ONCE has anyone explained how removing commanders from the process will make them care about sexual assaults MORE.

      Please give me ONE example anywhere in life where making someone not responsible for something has made them take more responsibility for it.  Just one.  

      Please tell me how we can get rid of commanders who dont take sexual assault seriously by telling them it is no longer their responsibility.  How can we hold them accountable when your proposal will make them not accountable?

      Please tell me how we get more command emphasis for something by removing commanders from the process?

      Do you have any idea how command works?  Dont you know that if you take something away from a commander it doesnt become the lowest priority, it disappears completely.  In fact any commander who was doing and activity that was not part of his command should be relieved on the spot.  If its not his job he better not be doing it.

      Finally, please tell me how many other areas are too hard for commanders to deal with?  Do we have Rape courts and all others?  Or do we have Rape courts, racial discrimination courts, sexual discrimination courts, etc, etc, etc?

      It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

      by ksuwildkat on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 06:39:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Are you in the military? (0+ / 0-)

      because you are showing a significant gap in knowledge about military justice.

      Military judges are completely independent of the the Chain of Command.  

      I would truly love to know what this "event" was because I have yet to hear a single active duty service member, man or woman, think establishing a separate justice system is a good idea.  Even those who I know have been assaulted understand that you dont make something more important by removing it from the chain of command.

      It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

      by ksuwildkat on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 06:44:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We had our anti-rape meeting..... (0+ / 0-)

    ... to solicit our ideas.

         And it was obvious from the moderator's behavior that the fix was in.   Nothing that compromised the arbitrary authority of a commander would be tolerated as 'input'.

          The big eye opener came earlier when the General was addressing all of us.   After a long series of videos about how rape would not be tolerated, and how serious a problem this was, in the question period a young captain got up and said:

        "Sir, why are you telling us all these bad things?   Aren't you going to tell us how great we are?"

         Like Catholic priests, like Ohio football players... tell someone often enough, repeatedly, that they are perfect, above criticism, and pretty soon some will take advantage of it.

    •  BS (0+ / 0-)

      Name the place this happened.  Total BS.  The only way someone said that was with total sarcasm and no Captain is that stupid or familiar with a General Officer.  

      adjective: arbitrary

      1. based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.

      "his mealtimes were entirely arbitrary"

      synonyms:    capricious, whimsical, random, chance, unpredictable; More

      antonyms:    reasoned, rational

      (of power or a ruling body) unrestrained and autocratic in the use of authority.

      "arbitrary rule by King and bishops has been made impossible"

      synonyms:    autocratic, dictatorial, autarchic, undemocratic, despotic, tyrannical, authoritarian, high-handed; absolute, uncontrolled, unlimited, unrestrained

      "the arbitrary power of the prince"

      "arbitrary authority of a commander"?  There is NOTHING arbitrary about military command.  The Army has a 120+ page regulation (AR 600-20) just for Command policy - including 10+ pages just on sexual assault.  Command is based on the Constitution, Public Law, DoD Regulation and service specific regulation.  It is absolutely systems based and 100% transparent.  Further, it is 100% voluntary.  

      ALL who fall under the authority of a Commander do so willingly.  No one - NO ONE - is forced to serve in the military.  The authority of a commander extends only to those who knowingly and willingly accept that authority.

      And since every commander - save the Commander In Chief - answers to someone their power is absolutely restrained.  No one could tell me how to command my unit but if my actions are deemed unacceptable I could be removed without recourse.

      Words mean things.

      It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

      by ksuwildkat on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 03:15:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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