Sexual assault: Women lawmakers push for change in US military (+video)
In the latest in a string of sexual assault cases in the military, US Naval Academy football players are accused of assaulting a female midshipman. More such victims are publicly telling their stories, and in Congress, women are leading the way to prevent such attacks.
Sexual assault in the US military is accelerating toward likely change in the way such cases are handled by senior uniformed officers – which is to say, it may be taken out of their hands.
It’s a function of changing public attitudes regarding military service and sexual misconduct beyond “he said, she said” – given greater strength by the growing ranks of women in senior elected positions.
In Congress, women lawmakers are leading the charge, pushing legislation that would take the authority to investigate and punish instances of sexual assault out of the chain of command, away from commanding officers whose potential conflict of interest may favor the military’s “good order and discipline” as it applies to unit cohesion and war-fighting ability over vigorously prosecuting sexual offenders in the ranks, including fellow officers.
In the latest of a string of recent cases, three US Naval Academy football players are under investigation for alleged sexual assault last year against a female midshipman. The incident occurred in April 2012 at an off-campus house in Annapolis, Maryland.
The woman reported the allegations to Navy criminal investigators and was disciplined for under-age drinking while the athletes, one of whom discouraged her from cooperating with investigators, were permitted to continue playing, Susan Burke, a lawyer for the female midshipman, told the Associated Press.
"The institution sent her a message loud and clear about its values," Ms. Burke said. Naval Academy officials have reopened the case, but refused further comment.
In another newly reported incident, former Marine Corps lance corporal Stacey Thompson says she was assaulted by a sergeant who laced her drinks with drugs, raped her in his barracks and then dumped her onto a street outside a nightclub at 4 a.m. She was 19 years old when the alleged attack occurred 14 years ago, she said in an Associated Press interview.
She was separated from the Marine Corps with a less-than-honorable discharge for drug use – based, she says, on statements from friends of the perpetrator.
"I felt the Marine Corps re-victimized me again after getting raped," said the 32-year-old mother of three.
She is now appealing her case to the Department of Veterans Affairs and is seeking compensation related to military sexual trauma, reports the AP. After that, she plans to also appeal her discharge status to get it upgraded to honorable.