CNN: Sexual assault in military ‘jaw-dropping,’ lawmaker says

(emphasis added in the quotes below is my own)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A congresswoman said Thursday that her “jaw dropped” when military doctors told her that four in 10 women at a veterans hospital reported being sexually assaulted while in the military.

A government report indicates that the numbers could be even higher.

Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, spoke before a House panel investigating the way the military handles reports of sexual assault.

She said she recently visited a Veterans Affairs hospital in the Los Angeles area, where women told her horror stories of being raped in the military.

“My jaw dropped when the doctors told me that 41 percent of the female veterans seen there say they were victims of sexual assault while serving in the military,” said Harman, who has long sought better protection of women in the military.

“Twenty-nine percent say they were raped during their military service. They spoke of their continued terror, feelings of helplessness and downward spirals many of their lives have taken since.

“We have an epidemic here,” she said. “Women serving in the U.S. military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.”

I believe the validity of these numbers. I have represented several victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military, and I have yet to see the military prosecute any of the perpetrators (but I have seen them go after an assault victim and attempt to prosecute her for making false statements).

Here are some more excerpts of the article with commentary…

. . . In 2007, Harman said, only 181 out of 2,212 reports of military sexual assaults, or 8 percent, were referred to courts martial. By comparison, she said, 40 percent of those arrested in the civilian world on such charges are prosecuted.

Defense statistics show that military commanders took unspecified action, which can include anything from punishment to dismissal, in an additional 419 cases.

But when it came time for the military to defend itself, the panel was told that the Pentagon’s top official on sexual abuse, Dr. Kaye Whitley, was ordered not to show up despite a subpoena.

“I don’t know what you’re trying to cover up here, but we’re not going to allow it,” Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, said to the Defense official who relayed the news of Whitley’s no-show. “This is unacceptable.”

Rep. John Tierney, the panel’s chairman and a Democrat from Massachusetts, angrily responded, “these actions by the Defense Department are inexplicable.”

“The Defense Department appears to be willfully and blatantly advising Dr. Whitley not to comply with a duly authorized congressional subpoena,” Tierney said.

An Army official who did testify said the Army takes allegations of sexual abuse extremely seriously.

“Even one sexual assault violates the very essence of what it means to be a soldier, and it’s a betrayal of the Army’s core values,” Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle said.

Wow, it looks like Dr. Whitley is taking the same stance as Karl Rove, but I don’t see how in a million years that the testimony that Dr. Whitley would give would in any way be protected by executive privilege.

And as for Lt. Gen. Rochelle, he is a liar. The Army doesn’t take sexual assault seriously and he knows it. And the last time I checked, lying in a congressional hearing is a crime.

. . . The Government Accountability Office released preliminary results from an investigation into sexual assaults in the military and the Coast Guard. The GAO found that the “occurrences of sexual assault may be exceeding the rates being reported.”

“At the 14 installations where GAO administered its survey, 103 service members indicated that they had been sexually assaulted within the preceding 12 months. Of these, 52 service members indicated that they did not report the sexual assault,” the GAO said.

The office found that the military and Coast Guard have established policies to address sexual assault but that the implementation of the programs is hampered by an array of factors, including that “most, but not all, commanders support the programs.”

“Left unchecked, these challenges can discourage or prevent some service members from using the programs when needed,” the GAO said. . . .

From what I’ve seen, the opposite is true. A rare few commanders support the programs to stop sexual assault, but most do not actively and proactively support the programs. (and a few commanders do their best to completely undermine the programs, often because either they or other members of their unt’s leadership were be found guilty of either participating or condoning sexual assault).