In the past 24 hours, Norah O’Donnell, of CBS Evening News, has begun discussing in a TV and internet 4-part, 3-day series on America’s military sexual assault problems. Her discussions are with parents of children who died in the military and who were sexual assault victims, survivors’ of sexual abuse, and victims’ advocates. The shattering truth is that the military’s attitude and documented interest in stopping this problem is a sham. We can say this because the underlying problem has NOT changed. Leadership from the top (4-stars) down is still not held responsible for failure to abide by existing law, military regulations or moral accountability.
DOD’s own current statistics and internal reports harshly confirm our own documented cases. Three quarters of the individuals on the CBS Evening News’ program are associated with our non-profit group, NeverAloneAdvocacy. Our grim truth is that for every service member’s story aired from 11/17-11/19/20, there are hundreds more identical stories that have been hidden, ignored, and covered up. The result? Our citizens are beginning to question whether they should entrust the well being of their sons and daughters to the “Enemy Within”.
The sexual assault problem is a military Force Protection issue directly affecting our country’s national security and its ability to sustain a viable military force. The real question that needs to be addressed NOW is who is responsible and accountable to stop this fratricide and cover up? The facts show that our military leadership know this is a national crisis. They have come before Congress on numerous occasions to defend their failures. Their reassuring cry, “We have got this”. This is a lie; the military knows it.
The truth is that over 1/2 million victims and counting are the proof that military leadership and Congress have not developed a cohesive and effective oversight to stop this carnage. We are in daily contact with concerned Congressional offices on behalf of our membership begging to get help to stop the military’s illegal behavior which is the failure to follow their own rules and regulations, federal victims’ rights and hold all service members accountable for their stated positions of responsibility.
Because this fratricide has been going on for over 50 years, there are clear patterns of abuse: Senior leadership is NOT held accountable for their failures, leadership’s first priority is protect the “military brand”, next protect themselves, then cocoon 3 and 4 star generals/admirals, blame lower ranking service members and/or attack and retaliate against the victims, including SHARP (Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Protection) program advocates who dare stand up against the senior leadership cover-up. The internal military investigative process is utilized to cover up the true, but damning facts. What we mean is by that is, the Commander can take out statements or facts that don’t meet his/her narrative, thus completely changing the outcome of any investigation and resulting punishments. This is the cover up.
What a victim does not have is his/her promised constitutional inalienable rights, nor a military judicial process that is governed by the law of the land. Our Congress and military do not lack enough data, nor sadly enough qualified cases to prove this point. The military strategy is an overarching effort to deny that sexual assault is systemic, in spite of the massive evidence.
Military leadership controls the process so that each case is “treated” as if it is a unique story. It is not. By doing this, the military’s leadership knows and tolerates their system’s effort is to “slow roll’ the case until neither the American citizens, victims, or Congress are able to sustain effective interest and pressure.
Secondly, the military has developed an exquisite, but deadly institutional investigative system, they call ‘Due Process”. It is a trap, As a military victim, you MUST follow ALL steps, or the military states “it’s your fault, if justice is not delivered.” However, if you do follow “due process”, your are almost guaranteed that the military now owns your very soul.
By that we mean the following: The military’s due process controls your case information, designated victims and witnesses, investigation focus, depth and scope, length of time to investigate, all communication with any entity or individual, all requests for information to expand, verify, or deny assumptions about the case or facts, the case legal/administrative outcome, consequential punishment, or not, retaliation, distribution of facts to any and all people in and outside the military process, your career, your ability to earn a living, your earned benefits, your reputation, your justice and then, your soul.
When the Congressional representatives are asked to intervene on behalf of victims, Congressional staff understandably defer to the military system’s due process so they don’t query the results. The truth is “due process” is a utter set up. As long as service members and citizens hope and believe it’s valid, we remain in a closed loop of a cover up.
The critical question is who is going to take control of this institutional problem and fix it? We have 6 immediate recommendations that can be implemented in this lame duck Congressional session.
- Prevention of sexual harassment and sexual assault should be seen as a critical Force Protection issue, 1 of the 5 basic war fighting missions of the Unites States’ military and each service member responsibility. It should be overseen by the organization’s Chief of Operations, (G -3) not the Personnel’s equal opportunity/resiliency officer (G-1).
- Hold ALL senior leaders accountable. There are no exceptions.
- Monthly publish a list, in open source media, of leaders punished for sexual assault/harassment crimes (judicial, non-judicial, and administrative). Silence and darkness only increases bad behavior.
- Make pro-active enforcement of sexual assault/harassment policies and its procedures an integral part of the service members’ appraisal system. Mandatory entry for both officer and non-commissioned officer efficiency reports (evaluations).
- Enforce existing military regulations, state and federal laws.
- Felonies need to be prosecuted outside the chain of command (e.g., Sexual assault, rape, murder, armed robbery, etc…).
This sexual assault culture in the military merits active focus and change from both the existing and incoming Presidential staff and all parties. The biggest threat to national security is not China, Russia, Iran, etc… It is the United States’ Military who can not maintain required operational strength due to sexual misconduct that leads to lack of trust by service members in their leadership.