How do we stop the retaliation from happening so victims of crimes in the military feel safe to report?

Even if you do go forward with a case and it’s adjudicated in your favor, it’s the retaliation that kicks our ass and de-rails our careers. Why is this happening? If you wonder why some who have been assaulted have severe PTSD, it’s the retaliation compounding the original trauma. And if you don’t report and try and soldier on, it catches up with you anyways in the form of behavioral issues and suicidal ideation. How do we stop the retaliation in the military from happening so victims of crimes feel safe to report?

Related Links:
Home Base Veteran Story: Jennifer & Lee Norris
Personal Story and Testimony of TSgt. Jennifer Norris, US Air Force Retired, Before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington DC (2013)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members
Massachusetts School of Law Interviews Veteran Jennifer Norris About Violent Crime in the Military & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
What Happens When a Rape is Reported in the Military?

Tracking Military Sex Offenders Prevents Crime

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If someone reports a crime to a police department, even if the person is not prosecuted, there is still a record of the complaint. This is not happening in the military because the Commander does not have access to law enforcement databases. So if the person was accused before in the military, the Commander has no way of knowing. And they are not entering data into the system if they are informed of a complaint. We are losing valuable data if the person is not prosecuted for the crime. The military currently prosecutes less then 10% of complaints.

If information was processed like in the civilian world, we quite possibly could prevent a rape or sexual assault. It could help establish a pattern even if one of the cases didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute. If the military had multiple complaints against one person then they would have a better chance at prosecution.

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Loopholes in the Military Justice System

Article 92 UCMJ

Prevention

  • Focus on victim “Don’t get raped”
  • Lack of focus on MO of predators
  • No deterrents or stiff punishments for violent crimes
  • No database to track predators & prevent crimes
  • Lack of punishment/accountability for those who retaliate
  • Empowerment/Leadership/Bystander Intervention

Recruiting

  • Moral waivers, waivers in general
  • No mental health pre-assessment
  • History of recruits with felony charges
  • Predators that flock to positions of trust
  • Autonomy in position, ability to isolate

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Prevent Sexual Assault, Rape, Suicide, and Murder in the Military

Military Sexual Assault

When I got involved in the ‘movement’ to end violence in the military, it was after serving fourteen years in the military. I went from one mission to another, and much like the military the purpose was clearly defined but those in charge swayed greatly from what was in writing. No matter what the job is whether it be in the military or in a movement, you need those in charge to be loyal to those who they are fighting for. Much like Community Planning, you need your ‘customer’ to have buy-in. Who are we fighting for? Our active duty military ultimately so we could prevent them from becoming disabled veterans.

I could have just walked away from the military and moved on with a happy, healthy life living with PTSD and on a fixed income BUT that is not who I am which is exactly what my point is. I reported violent crimes to prevent what happened to me from happening to anyone else. I stepped forward and spoke out publicly to do the same. In the meantime, we had all kinds of competing issues knocking us down or drowning us out. For example, despite being committed to preventing rape in the military, others were committed to promoting themselves, becoming famous, or maybe even ensuring women have access to the most dangerous job in America: combat.

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VOR America: Jennifer Norris Discusses Sexual Misconduct in the Military (2014)

Where are the loopholes in the Military Justice system?

1. Recruiters hold positions of trust & authority and are usually working independently of others. They have the unique ability to use their position to control a new, young, recruit who may be naive to how predators operate. Rule #1: They should never be alone with any new recruit, ever. These are the kind of positions that are attracting rapists because they have easy prey. Need strict guidelines where this is concerned considering how much they have taken advantage of the autonomy given to them. Not all recruiters are rapist but you will find that a rapist will flock to a position like this because of the autonomy and lack of oversight in general.

What do you do if your military recruiter sexually assaults you?

Are you going to report and risk losing a career that never started or report this person?

If you have not yet joined the military, who cares for you since it didn’t occur on Active Duty?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to report to civilian authorities? Where does Commander fit it?

What happens to your career if you report that your recruiter raped you? Is it delayed?

How do you prove it wasn’t consensual if DNA can prove that contact was made?

How do we overcome the ‘he said, she said’ MO that normally occurs as a result of sexual assault?

Air Force: Air National Guard Recruiter Rapes New Recruit

Army: Sexual Abuse by Military Recruiters

Marines: Marine Recruiter Accused of Assaulting 2 Recruits

2. Basic Training Instructors/Drill Sergeants

Scenario: Attacked at 19 by an Air Force Trainer, and Speaking Out

Scenario: Retired APG general: The players change, the ‘GAM’ remains the same

Scenario: Army PFC Details Sexual Assualt by Drill Sergeant During Basic Training

3. Technical School/AIT Instructors

Scenario: Sexual Assault at Keesler Air Force Base

4. Peers

Scenario: Kelso High grad takes on Air Force after daughter reports rapes

5. Supervisors

6. Commanders/Generals

USMC: After sex assaults inside military, women are victims again of legal system

National Guard: Alleged Cover Up of Sexual Harassment Sinks Vermont General’s Career

7. Chaplains

Scenario: Army chaplain convicted in Internet sex case

8. Sexual Assault Response Coordinators/Personnel

9. Office of Special Investigations, Criminal Investigation Division, etc.

Scenario: Spies, Lies, and Rape in the Air Force: An Undercover Agent’s Story

10. Medical Personnel

11. Military Prosecutors

Scenario: Marine sex-assault prosecutor accused of touching woman inappropriately

12. Service Academies (Future Commanders/Generals)

Navy: Sexual assault reports double at the Naval Academy

All Academies: Reported sex assaults leap 23 percent at US military academies

To be continued…

The Real News: Senate Unanimously Passes Sexual Assault Bill, But What Will it Change? (2014)

Jennifer Norris: Senate bill will still keep military sexual abuse cases within the chain of command of the military, leaving victims vulnerable to retaliation

Military Justice Improvement Act Falls Short of Votes & Substance

The MJIA fell short of the votes it needed to pass in Congress. But it’s really nothing to get upset about because the bill falls short of substance.

The MJIA had good intentions. It gave the victim a different place to report other then an immediate supervisor or the Commander. It would have allowed victims to report to a military prosecutor instead. The bill also included all violent crimes, ie sexual assault, domestic violence, and murder.

But in reality, how is that going to work? There aren’t enough military prosecutors to report to. There was one, maybe two in the State of Maine JAG office and they were located hours if not days away from some of the places we trained and deployed.

The Commander atleast is going to have to be privy as to why their troop is absent. They also need to know if they have an alleged rapist in the ranks. We can never completely remove the Commander but we can hold them accountable.

We can ask them to mind their own business, keep the information confidential until further action must be taken, and provide an environment supportive for the victim. That includes allowing the victim take some leave, get the help they need, deal with the legal process, and transfer if necessary.

A military prosecutor can simply prosecute a case. Why don’t we refer those who have been harmed to the police to make a statement then to a hospital for DNA evidence collection. The Commander is going to have to know what is going on with the troop if they are absent or will be forced to push Absent Without Leave (AWOL).

We need a system in place that ensures these Commanders treat people with respect and do not take action that compounds the acute stress in any way. If the Commander is not supportive, then they are part of the problem and the soldier needs a safe place to turn where they know their communications are confidential. How do we hold a Commander who behaves criminally or unethically?

Claire McCaskill’s military justice bill keeps everything status quo but does give us some additional layers of protection that provide some checks and balances. Until it is implemented, we cannot determine if these measures will work either. For example, have they accounted for corrupt military prosecutors or rogue OSI agents? What about an inspector general who is drinking buddies with the leader accused of wrongdoing.

Based on the work I have done with active duty in the past three years, I can say with the greatest of convictions that the military justice system itself is broken. This is definitely not the Commander’s fault. We are trained to be warfighters not to police our own. We need an objective third party that oversees helping our troops get justice, care, and help with moving on with their career seamlessly.

We should not lose our careers simply because we reported a violent crime. We should not be retaliated against because we are trying to hold a criminal accountable. How do we attack the internal beat down from our peers after the rapist claims that we made it all up or changed our minds?

We are not reporting for a number of reasons. Reporting to a prosecutor is not going to protect us from the situation we may be faced with. We may have been raped by a supervisor or maybe even the Commander. Someone is going to have to help us navigate being a military member who was the victim of a crime. Why don’t we just utilize the existing law agencies in place so we can work together on catching these violent criminals?

The nationally based, Crime Victim’s Organization says the following: “with solid support and information, many sexual assault victims do choose to participate in prosecution of an offender”

Senator Collins speaks in support of efforts to address military sexual assault

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins spoke on the Senate floor today in strong support of legislation coming before the Senate that would address the crisis of sexual assault in the military.

“Since 2004, I have been sounding the alarm over the military’s ineffective response to the growing crisis of sexual assault in the military, including the need to ensure appropriate punishment for the perpetrators, to provide adequate care for the survivors of such reprehensible crimes, and to change the culture across the military so that sexual assault is unthinkable,” said Senator Collins, who first raised this issue during an Armed Services Committee hearing ten years ago.

In her remarks on the Senate floor, she singled out for praise the courage of two Mainers who have come forward to tell their stories.

“I also want to acknowledge the courage and conviction of Jennifer Norris and Ruth Moore – two Mainers who were sexually assaulted while serving and have made it their mission to change the broken system that does not put victims first. Through their advocacy, they have helped to shine a light on this crisis and deserve our gratitude.”

The Military Justice Improvement Act Helps Guarantee Constitutional Rights for All (2013)

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I support the Military Justice Improvement Act for a number of reasons but first and foremost because it will provide a safe place for survivors to report. And if survivors can report, we can prevent others from becoming victims of these same criminals. The whole premise behind this law is to remove the gatekeepers (Commander and Chain of Command). Not because they all are incapable and incompetent of doing the right thing but because they are trained to be warriors not police, detectives, and prosecutors. Therefore, they can quite potentially hurt a case by meddling in it.

The Commander may know both parties and cannot be impartial in this case. Therefore, we need to treat all cases as if they are worst case scenario so that our response is uniform and consistent. This law is only the first of many steps that need to be taken in order to ensure a fair process for both the victim and the accused. No one wants special rights; no one wants bias in the process.  As a matter of fact, we are making the military’s response to violent crime similar to that of the civilian system. For example, would you report a crime to your boss?  No. You would report a crime to the police, a rape crisis center, etc.

Since not all bases have legal and support services available to them, the next logical step is to turn to the Judge Advocate General, who is more of a legal professional then the Commander. Commanders are not trained to assist traumatized victims, conduct investigations, or study the modus operandi of predators. Most prosecutors are schooled in these techniques automatically just because of their legal training. The ideal scenario would include one place to call or go to assist them with the process. We can’t do this until they report. The SARC or SAPRO can act as a support system but only if they have a supportive Command.  Therefore, we need to guarantee a support system that will review the situation from an objective point of view. The good soldier defense and how long you have served should not determine your credibility.

If you don’t believe the military has a reporting problem, then you don’t know the numbers.  The numbers are staggering and illusive.  The 26,300 troops that the Department of Defense reports are sexual assaulted per year does not include the military service academies, the Coast Guard, or sexual harassment cases.  Unfortunately, the Department of Defense is still referring sexual harassment cases to the Equal Employment Opportunity office, which is a Commander’s program. Therefore once again, if the EEO representative is not supported by the Commander then they cannot help you. Of the 26,300 estimated troops, only 3,374 reported the crimes perpetrated against them.  Sixty-two percent of those that did not report the crime did not report because of fear of retaliation and the impact on their career, and rightly so.