If our elected officials are searching for a real scandal, writes Katrina vanden Heuvel this week in The Washington Post online, maybe they should start with the officer leading the Air Force’s anti–sexual assault initiative who was charged with sexual battery this month. Or the sergeant in Texas who allegedly forced a subordinate into prostitution. Or the 26,000 sexual assaults that happened in our military in the past year alone.
In the weeks since the Pentagon announced that an estimated 26,000 people were sexually assaulted in the military last year—an increase of 36 percent from 2011—three high-ranking officers charged with their branch’s sexual assault prevention program have themselves been charged with assault or harassment. The charges reflect what the numbers have already made clear: the military has been grossly negligent in creating a culture where victims of sexual assault can seek justice.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has introduced a bill that would remove responsibility for prosecuting sex crimes out of the military’s chain of command. As Senator Gillibrand said, “When any single victim of sexual assault is forced to salute her attacker, clearly our system is broken.” Implore your representatives to support the Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013.
A recent Nation interview with the director and producer of The Invisible War, a groundbreaking investigative documentary about the epidemic of rape within our US military, makes clear how taking the handling of sexual assault out of the chain of command would drastically improve matters.
Invisible War focuses on the powerfully emotional stories of several young women, the film reveals the systemic cover up of the crimes against them and follows their struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice