Speier, Mullin Introduce Bipartisan ‘I Am Vanessa Guillén Act’ to Transform the Military’s Response to Sexual Violence & Missing Servicemembers (September 16, 2020)

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE, SENATORS, AND THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE & HOUSE ARMED SERVICE COMMITTEE TO EXPRESS YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE I AM VANESSA GUILLEN BILL.

Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present)

Washington D.C. Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (December 12, 2017)

HASC Congressional Investigation of Fort Hood: Research Reveals Pattern of Suspicious Deaths and Cover-up (September 11, 2020)

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Speier, Mullin Introduce Bipartisan I Am Vanessa Guillén Act to Transform the Military’s Response to Sexual Violence and Missing Servicemembers

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), along with co-leads Reps. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), John Carter (R-TX), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (D-TX), Troy Balderson (R-OH), Jason Crow (D-CO), and Will Hurd (R-TX), and 94 additional co-sponsors, introduced the I am Vanessa Guillén Act in honor of the late SPC Vanessa Guillén and the many survivors of military sexual violence who have bravely come forward in the wake of her disappearance and brutal murder. The legislation responds to these resounding calls for change by offering provisions that would revolutionize the military’s response to missing servicemembers and reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault by making sexual harassment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice and moving prosecution decisions of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases out of the chain of command. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate today. This morning, following a meeting with the Guillén family, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a commitment to hold a House floor vote on the I am Vanessa Guillén Act. President Trump previously announced his support for the bill during a White House meeting with the Guillén family.

SPC Guillén’s disappearance and brutal murder became the catalyst for long overdue change when her family refused to let her case be neglected by Army leadership at Fort Hood. The Guillén family supports the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, and Chair Speier is also leading a congressional delegation this weekend to Fort Hood to further investigate matters at the base and speak with servicemembers at all levels about their experiences and how best to accelerate the cultural change that is so urgently needed.

Specifically, the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act would:

-Move prosecution decisions on sexual assault and sexual harassment cases outside of the chain of command to an Office of the Chief Prosecutor within each military service;

-Create a standalone military offense for sexual harassment;

-Establish trained sexual harassment investigators who are outside of the chain of command of the complainant and the accused;

-Create a confidential reporting process for sexual harassment that is integrated with DoD’s Catch a Serial Offender database;

-Require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the military’s procedures for finding missing servicemembers and compare with procedures used by civilian law enforcement and best practices;

-Require both DoD and GAO to conduct separate evaluations of the military services’ Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) programs; and

-Establish a process by which servicemembers can make claims for negligence and seek compensatory damages against DoD in the case of sexual assault or sexual harassment.

“Military leadership has repeatedly failed to reduce sexual harassment, sexual assault, and violent crime at Fort Hood, one of the worst sites for attacks according to Army officials, and throughout the armed forces,” Chair Speier said. “The endless cycle of harassment, assault, and retaliation for those who speak out reveals the deep roots of a toxic culture we must eradicate so that survivors are taken seriously and treated with respect, and assailants are held accountable. The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act would do this by providing survivors independent investigations for both sexual harassment and sexual assault reports and independent charging decisions for courts-martial. It would also make sexual harassment a criminal offense in the military, helping get to the core of an issue that too often leads to violence and destroys careers, and lives. The Guillén family and legions of former and current servicemembers are demanding bold change. Congress must seize this moment and deliver on that demand for change by passing the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act.”

“The issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue – it’s an American issue,” Congressman Mullin said. “We must strengthen the military’s ability to protect its most important resource, which is the people who willingly sign-up to protect all Americans. The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act will also encourage survivors to come forward to report sexual assaults and sexual harassment and to provide justice. This is about protecting our men and women in uniform and I will keep fighting so no family has to go through what the Guillén family has gone through.”

“From the moment I started working with the Guillén family in May, I made it clear I would not stop until we found Vanessa and got justice in her name,” Congresswoman Garcia said. “The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act of 2020 is a transformative and comprehensive bill that will help save lives and give our soldiers an avenue to report sexual assault and harassment without fear – a lasting legacy in honor of Vanessa. I want the Guillén family to know that Congress, the Houston region, and the entire world stands with you and we won’t stop until we get justice for Vanessa.”

“First and foremost, my heart goes out to the Guillén family, no one should ever have to experience the pain they’ve experienced,” Congressman Carter said. “The men and women that selflessly serve our nation deserve to feel safe to report misconduct and feel confident that their issues will be fairly handled. There is absolutely no place for sexual misconduct in the United States military and we must take these steps to ensure that accountability is realized.”

“The unspeakable tragedy of Specialist Vanessa Guillén’s murder has shed new light and revealed to the American public the epidemic of unchecked sexual harassment and assault that too many service members have suffered,” Congresswoman Escobar said. “Specialist Guillén – and all servicemembers – deserve respect and justice, and it’s our obligation to protect those who bravely put their lives on the line for our country. We can’t continue the same approaches that have failed victims. Congress must respond to this moment of reckoning with new solutions to tackle this epidemic and pass the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act.”

“The tragedy that befell PFC Vanessa Guillén was horrific and reflects a growing problem in our Armed Forces. Our military members should never fear harassment or violence while defending our nation,” Congressman Olson said. “As a Navy veteran, I’m proud to support the I am Vanessa Guillen Act, which is an important step towards getting justice for PFC Guillén and other service members like her. It ensures there is a stand-alone military offense for sexual harassment and requires the GAO to review how our military processes missing service members in cases of suspected foul play compared to civilian law enforcement. By working together and demanding accountability, we can prevent the next tragedy. Our military must maintain higher standards and we will not be silent on this issue.”

“Year after year, we see an increase in reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our military and the same statements from military leadership about how unacceptable they are. It’s far past time we take bold action to bring accountability to the system and give survivors support,” Congressman Cisneros said. “In the memory of Specialist Vanessa Guillén, Republicans and Democrats are coming together to make legislative fixes to protect our men and women in uniform. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the bipartisan I am Vanessa Guillén Act to provide the necessary support and resources for survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our military. Our servicemembers and military families deserve to have the peace of mind that they’ll be heard and treated with dignity and respect.”

“Ohio is home to thousands of active duty servicemembers who risk their lives for our nation, and in return, it’s our country’s obligation to ensure their safety,” Congressman Balderson said. “In honor of Vanessa Guillén, this legislation will take important steps to ensure survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our military can tell their stories without retribution and seek the justice they deserve.”

“As a soldier, I remember going to basic training to learn everything from marksmanship to the chain of command. The military is supposed to train new recruits on the essential tasks of the job, but we still don’t do nearly enough to address sexual assault in the ranks. We need to make sure we are creating a system and culture of accountability in the military to protect our women and men in uniform. For too long, sexual assault and violence has gone unaddressed,” Congressman Crow said. “The military failed Vanessa Guillén but I refuse to let Congress fail her or her family. It is Congress that decides what kind of military we have and now it is Congress’ responsibility to step up and pass the I AM Vanessa Guillén to protect our women and men in uniform.”

“We must work to ensure what happened to Vanessa Guillén never happens again,” Congressman Hurd said.“The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act of 2020 will protect soldiers like Vanessa by ensuring independent investigations occur in assault and harassment cases. This will better safeguard our soldiers from retaliation and help prevent these atrocious acts from ever happening in the first place.”

“Vanessa Guillén’s story makes painfully clear the need for a better response to sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military,” Senator Hirono said. The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act knocks down barriers to reporting sexual harassment and sexual assault and directly addresses the culture that protects the perpetrators of these crimes. It’s time to make a system that respects and protects survivors.”

The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act will fundamentally reform reporting and investigation of sexual harassment in the military and transform prosecution of sexual harassment and assault by empowering an independent prosecutor, within each military service, to bring charges. The bill will also allow servicemembers who were sexually harassed or sexually assaulted to pursue monetary claims against DoD and will also require a comprehensive GAO review of the military’s sexual harassment and assault prevention and response programs, as well as the military’s procedures for responding to missing servicemembers.

A fact sheet and the text of the bill are attached to this press release.

Introduction of I Am Vanessa Guillen Act:

This is a hearing by the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, looking into sexual harassment allegations and how they’re responded to. It’s also looking into Fort Hood’s sexual assault and response program. This hearing is taking place a day before Vanessa Guillen’s family meets with President Trump and legislation is introduced. -KHOU 11 (July 29, 2020)
Rep. Speier, family of murdered soldier Vanessa Guillen on legislation in her honor -PBS News Hour (September 16, 2020)
Lawmakers introduce the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act -HD Vision (September 17, 2020)

Related Files:
Fact Sheet – I am Vanessa Guillen Act Press Fact Sheet.pdf 
2020-09-15 I Am Vanessa Guillen Bill Text.pdf

In the News:

“The IamVanessaGuillen Bill is a BiPartisan Bill. It is NOT a political issue, it’s a human rights issue,” Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam wrote. -KCEN News (September 16, 2020)
Speaker Pelosi to reportedly bring ‘I am Vanessa Guillen’ Act to U.S. House floor for vote -25 News KXXV (September 16, 2020)
Vanessa Guillén’s family members speak during a news conference about the “I Am Vanessa Guillén Act,” in honor of the late U.S. Army Specialist and survivors of military sexual violence. -KXAN (September 16, 2020)
The ‘I am Vanessa Guillen’ bill was presented to Congress Wednesday, but what does it mean for the future of military service members facing sexual harassment. -KHOU 11 (September 16, 2020)

Related Links:
Hearing: “The Military’s #MeToo Moment”
Rep. Speier, family of murdered soldier Vanessa Guillen on legislation in her honor
Lawmakers introduce the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act
Watch Live | #IAmVanessaGuillen Bill introduced in D.C.
Bill honoring Vanessa Guillen introduced in Washington D.C. Wednesday
Speaker Pelosi to reportedly bring ‘I am Vanessa Guillen’ Act to U.S. House floor for vote
Vanessa Guillén’s family members speak about the “I Am Vanessa Guillén Act”
What is the ‘I am Vanessa Guillen’ bill?

HASC Congressional Investigation of Fort Hood: Research Reveals Pattern of Suspicious Deaths and Cover-up (September 11, 2020)

(photo: Hedge Hedge Baker)

Dear House Armed Services Committee:

I accidentally stumbled upon Fort Hood while conducting research on the non combat deaths of female service members overseas. Fort Hood, along with a few other big Army bases in the U.S., was the common denominator in non combat death overseas. I also learned there are countless numbers of non combat deaths of male service members as well. They shouldn’t have to face death as a way to escape their situation (whether they are a victim of crime and/or it’s a mental health emergency). This issue in and of itself is its own animal and the reason we need policy enacted immediately to create a “bug out” plan for those in danger (or mental health emergencies) in overseas locations, especially if the chain of command fails them. There is no 911 overseas. Why is it the military is not accountable to the American public with the outcome of the investigations of a U.S. service member’s death? They conveniently get to hide behind the non combat death label and because they don’t disclose why or how the service member died in most cases, we are not able to make informed consent as to whether we want to join an organization that appears to hide their misdeeds in an effort to protect the reputation of the institution. I was inspired to look into the other non combat deaths of women overseas after learning the military labeled the obvious rape and murder of LaVena Johnson as a suicide. My research found this isn’t an anomaly, this is a pattern.

Non Combat Deaths of Female Soldiers in the US Military (Iraq)
Non Combat Deaths of Female Service Members in the U.S. Military (Afghanistan)
Non Combat Deaths of Female Service Members in the U.S. Military (Other Areas)
Department of Defense Press Releases (2001 to present)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of U.S. Service Members
Fort Campbell Army Pfc. LaVena Johnson Died of Non Combat Related Injuries in Iraq; Death Ruled Suicide But Independent Investigation Revealed Rape & Murder (July 19, 2005)

After noticing the pattern of the same bases tied to the non combat deaths overseas, I decided to start researching crime in and around the bases in question. Crime knows no boundaries. I took a look at JBLM, Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, Fort Carson, Fort Campbell, JBER, Fort Wainwright, Camp Pendleton, etc. I not only discovered violent crime in and around the bases but I discovered suicide and homicide in garrison were significant issues as well. In late 2016, I noticed a large cluster of deaths at Fort Hood on the heels of learning about all the other violent crime, non combat death and suicide at Fort Hood since 9/11/2001. I was especially upset with the way Fort Hood handled the missing person case of Dakota Stump and how they treated his family. As a result of me taking an interest in the issues at Fort Hood, families of the fallen started contacting me. What I learned collectively was startling. Please keep in mind, each family didn’t know about my conversations with the other families as all this information is considered confidential unless they want to tell their loved ones story on my website: www.militaryjusticeforall.com

Violent Crime, Non Combat Death & Suicide at U.S. Military Bases
Fort Hood Army Pvt. Dakota Stump Found Dead on Post Three Weeks After Vehicle Accident; Family Wants Missing ‘Warrior Alert Law’ (November 3, 2016)
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas

As a result of the intel I was getting from families of the fallen at Fort Hood, I decided I was going to start paying closer attention to what was going on at this base. It was by far the most problematic compared to any other base. But please understand Fort Hood is symbolic of the other bases; they all have these same problems. The Army is by far the worst offender concerning death and violent crime in the military. The patterns that emerged from the Fort Hood families included lack of interest in missing persons cases, mislabeling deaths, shoddy death investigations, reports and information from Army leadership that didn’t add up or make sense, evidence goes missing, computer devices and phones are erased, secretiveness, dismissiveness, misleading, and cover-up. When it comes to an untimely or dubious death, it’s hard to find a family who won’t stop fighting for their loved one until justice is served. No justice, no peace. We currently have a group of families at Fort Hood and elsewhere who want to file a class action lawsuit to get the suspicious deaths of their loved ones reopened so they can be investigated properly by independent investigators. The Army did not investigate each death as a homicide until ruled out, therefore the scene was not preserved for evidence collection; they quickly ruled the death a suicide and moved on. According to Stars and Stripes, in the last five years, we’ve lost 165 soldiers at Fort Hood and 70 of those deaths were deaths ruled suicide. I have not included all cases because a lot of families have not come forward to share their story publicly because they are heartbroken, traumatized, confused, and overwhelmed. This experience leaves the families feeling helpless. Even if the death was in fact a suicide, these families want answers, they want the truth, and they want an avenue to find the truth. I was so concerned with the number of deaths stateside at Fort Hood, I went to Washington D.C. in December 2017 to ask for help and it fell on deaf ears including the office of the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry.

Fort Hood Research for Last 5 Years:
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present)
Washington D.C. Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (December 12, 2017)
Austin American-Statesman: Vanessa Guillen’s Death Shines Light on More Tragedies at Fort Hood (July 28, 2020)
Stars and Stripes: Why Is Fort Hood the Army’s Most Crime-Ridden Post? (August 21, 2020)

Homicide Cases in Last 5 Years:
Unsolved Homicide: Fort Hood Army Pvt. Justin Lewis Shot & Killed Near Vacant Lot in Killeen, Texas Neighborhood (April 17, 2017)
Unsolved Homicide: Fort Hood Army Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales Reported AWOL; Based on Anonymous Tip, Remains Found in Shallow Grave in Killeen 10 Months Later (August 19, 2019)
Unsolved Homicide: Fort Hood Army Spc. Shelby Jones Died of Gunshot Wound at Mickey’s Convenience Store in Killeen, Texas; Shot at Nearby Night Club (March 1, 2020)
Asia Cline, Army Veteran Shaquan Allred, & Fort Hood Spc. Freddy Delacruz, Jr. Found Shot Dead at Killeen, Texas Apartment; Suspect Arrested (March 14, 2020)
Fort Hood Army Pfc. Brandon Rosecrans Found Fatally Shot Four Miles From Burning Jeep in Harker Heights, Texas; Two Arrested & Charged (May 18, 2020)
An Open Letter to the House of Representatives in Support of an Independent Investigation of the Murder of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood (July 7, 2020)

Cases of Significance (homicide has no statute of limitations):
Fort Hood Army Pfc. Melissa Hobart Collapsed and Died From Undetermined Cause While on Guard Duty in Baghdad, Iraq (June 6, 2004)
Fort Hood Army Sgt. William Edwards Killed Estranged Wife Erin Edwards at Killeen, Texas Home; Killed Self in Parking Lot Across Street (July 22, 2004)
Fort Hood Army Pfc. Tina Priest Died From a Non-Combat Related Incident in Iraq; Death Ruled Suicide But Family Suspects Rape and Murder (March 1, 2006)
Fort Hood Army SSG Jeannette Dunn Died of a Non Combat Related Injury in Taji, Iraq (November 26, 2006)
Fort Hood Army Cpl. Christopher Ferguson Died of Undetermined Causes; CID Claimed Death Was Accident; CBS News Reported Suicide (March 25, 2007)
Army Staff Sgt. Paul Norris Fatally Shot Spc. Kamisha Block in Murder-Suicide in Iraq; Family Requests Congressional Hearings & Investigation of Military Leadership (August 16, 2007)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Christine Ndururi Died of Non Combat Illness at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait; Family Claims She Has Not Been Sick (November 6, 2007)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Keisha Morgan Died of Non Combat Related Cause in Baghdad, Iraq; CID Ruled Suicide But Family Suspects Rape and Murder (February 22, 2008)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Seteria Brown Died of a Non-Combat Related Incident in Afghanistan; Army Said Found in Barracks With Gunshot Wound From M-16 (July 25, 2008)
Army SSG Devin Schuette Found Dead in Vehicle at Recreation Area Near Fort Hood; CID Ruled Suicide, Spouse Requests Independent Investigation (January 3, 2016)
Army Sgt. Marcus Nelson Sr. Died While in Custody at Bell County Jail in Belton, Texas; Nelson Held on Charges Stemming from 1st Cavalry Division (May 23, 2016)
On This Day, Eight Army Soldiers & One West Point Cadet Died in a Flash Flood Training Accident at Fort Hood in Texas (June 2, 2016)
Army Pvt. Paige Fontenot Briles Found Unresponsive in Vehicle at Ft Hood Housing in Texas; Despite Suicide Ruling, Family Requests Homicide Investigation (Dec. 24, 2016)
Fort Hood Army CID Special Agent Steven Hines Found Dead Behind Office Building of Apparent Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound, Death Ruled Suicide (February 5, 2017)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Justen Ogden Found Unresponsive at On-Post Home; Family Questions Cause of Death Ruling Claiming “None of It Ever Added Up” (July 11, 2017)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Zachary Moore Died by Suicide While on Deployment to Camp Hovey, South Korea; Delay in Medical Care Contributed to Death (August 2, 2017)
Fort Hood Army MSG Alva ‘Joe’ Gwinn Led Police on High Speed Car Chase After Welfare Check Initiated; Died by Suicide During the Incident (October 12, 2017)
Timeline: Army Sgt. Kelton Sphaler & Army Vet Scott Weinhold Reported Missing at Belton Lake on Ft Hood; After Search Launched, Recovered in Water (January 21, 2019)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Mason Webber Died of Injuries Sustained Conducting Maintenance on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle at Texas Base (September 5, 2019)

Active Duty Military Legislation Recommendations:
Rep. Seth Moulton Introduces The Brandon Act to Change DoD Mental Health Policy, Pay Tribute to Fallen Navy Sailor Brandon Caserta (June 25, 2020)
Senators Cruz, Gillibrand, Grassley Offer Bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act as Amendment to Defense Bill (July 2, 2020)
Chair Jackie Speier NDAA Provisions Address Military Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner Violence, Racial Justice, Ethics, Military Families, and DoD Oversight and Modernization (July 2, 2020)
Speier, Mullin Introduce Bipartisan ‘I Am Vanessa Guillén Act’ to Transform the Military’s Response to Sexual Violence and Missing Servicemembers (September 16, 2020)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members

Open Letter to House of Representatives in Support of an Independent Investigation of the Murder of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood (July 7, 2020)

Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present): https://wp.me/p3XTUi-5oF

Dear Rep. Jared Golden,

I write to you as a victim of crime in the military and as a military crime historian. I have researched the US military’s crime problems for the last 10 years and have documented as much as humanly possible on my Military Justice for All website. I have over 1000 cases of suspicious deaths, homicide and missing cases. Fort Hood has been problematic for years. I visited both Senator Collins and Senator King in DC to warn them about the problems at Fort Hood in December 2017 and to ask them for their help. It fell on deaf ears. Much like Vanessa Guillen, I too was afraid to report sexual harassment and sexual assault for fear of retaliation. I didn’t report until my supervisor in the Chain of Command attempted to force himself on me. Prior to this incident, I experienced daily sexual harassment and he would give me assignments that isolated me so he could do it with no witnesses.

Rep. Sylvia Garcia is asking that the DoD IG do an investigation of the circumstances that led up to the murder of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood. I am asking you to support her and all of our service members by adding your name to the list of representatives who support these efforts. Fort Hood leadership has failed time and time again and it’s due time that someone take a look at this problematic base. It’s a sad day when we lose 133 servicemembers stateside to violent crime, suicide, and training accidents compared to 2 combat deaths and 4 insider attacks overseas since 2016.

I also ask that you support legislation such as the Military Justice Improvement Act to give our service members a chance to report unsafe situations to an independent authority outside the Chain of Command. As long as service members are fearful of retaliation (which is very real and the reason I have compounded PTSD), we will continue to see high rates of PTSD, murder and suicide on military bases. According to authorities, Vanessa Guillen was murdered because she was planning on reporting someone she worked with for adultery, and this same individual may also have been sexually harassing her. It is unclear at this time who sexually harassed her but she told her family she was scared and feared reporting the sexual harassment to the Chain of Command because it wasn’t taken seriously and she feared retaliation.

Over the years, I have realized that most don’t realize what it’s like to be enlisted and this still rings true. Imagine how powerless we feel as lower enlisted when someone higher ranking than us can literally get away with crime because they are part of the reporting mechanism or they simply don’t care. While Congress sits on their hands, veterans are flocking to the VA to file PTSD claims and military families are grieving the loss of their loved ones whether it be by murder or suicide. I understand why someone might take their own life when they feel trapped and have no way out.

Please do the right thing and support Rep. Garcia, Rep. Speier and Senator Gillibrand.

Sincerely,

Air Force Veteran

Rep Sylvia Garcia

Find your Representative here.

Chair Jackie Speier NDAA Provisions Address Military Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner Violence, Racial Justice, Ethics, Military Families, and DoD Oversight and Modernization (July 2, 2020)

Rep Speier NDAA.jpg

“Nearly two dozen major provisions offered by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, were adopted during consideration of the annual defense policy bill by the Armed Services Committee this week.”

  • Authorize a System of Military Court Protective Orders: Allowing military judges and magistrates to issue court protective orders compliant with the Violence Against Women Act. The new judicial orders provide better protection and enforceability for servicemembers and family members experiencing intimate partner violence.
  • Initiate a Sexual Assault Prosecution Pilot Program at the Military Service Academies: A 4-year test of a new Chief Prosecutor would demonstrate whether assigning charging decisions for sexual assault and other special victims’ crimes to an independent expert outside of the chain of command would increase the willingness of survivors to report and the ability of the military justice system to hold perpetrators accountable.
  • Establish a Special Inspector General for Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Armed Forces: A dedicated office to investigate underrepresentation of people of color among military officers and high-ranking enlisted servicemembers, racial disparities within the military justice system, and white supremacy among servicemembers.
  • Increase Representation of Women and People of Color in the Armed Services: The military would be required to establish specific goals to increase recruiting, accessions, and promotion of minorities and women, and to report to Congress on a plan to achieve these goals and their progress.
  • Address Bias by Anonymizing Candidates Before Military Promotion Boards: Redact all personally identifiable information, such as names and photographs, of servicemembers before promotion boards to remove the potential for conscious or unconscious bias.
  • Make Violent Extremism a Military Crime: A new article within the Uniform Code of Military Justice would bring greater consequences to servicemembers who perpetrate, plan, threaten, or conspire to commit violent acts with intent to intimidate or coerce a person or class of people, or the intent to impact government action or policy.
  • Track White Supremacy among Servicemembers: The military services would be required to improve tracking of white-supremacist and other extremist activity by servicemembers.
  • Establish a Military-Civilian Task Force on Domestic Violence: The task force would report to Congress with findings and recommendations to address intimate partner violence among servicemembers and military families, and DoD would be required to collect data on the prevalence of intimate partner violence.
  • Establish a Military-wide Safe-to-Report Policy: Clarify that servicemembers may report sexual assault without fear of being disciplined for related minor collateral misconduct such as drinking in the barracks.
  • Improve Coordination for Survivors of Sexual Trauma: Ensure a warm handoff for survivors when relocating between stations within the military or when separating from the military and transferring from service providers within DoD to resources within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Improve Oversight of Military Sexual Assault Investigations: Require DoD to report to Congress all military sexual assault investigations that remain open more than 6 months along with the reasons for the delay.
  • Improve Oversight of Next Generation Body Armor: Require DoD to report on barriers to fielding next generation body armor that will provide better, gender-specific protection for military servicemembers.
  • Expand Child Care Options for Military Families: Address waiting lists, establish competitive pay for providers in high-cost areas, provide housing priority for military spouses that operate Family Care Centers, and expand the Financial Assistance Program to pay for in-home child care, such as by a nanny or au pair. Additionally, it requires 24-hour child care be provided on bases where servicemembers are required to work night shifts.
  • Improve Oversight of the Next Generation Interceptor Missile Defense Program: Require an independent cost estimate and two successful flight tests before buying.
  • Transparency of Contractor Ownership: Expand reporting requirements to identify the beneficial owner of contractors.
  • Strengthen Whistleblower Protections: Clarify that nondisclosure agreements do not prevent employees of government contractors and subcontractors from filing a whistleblower complaint.
  • Examine Equal Employment Opportunity: Require the Department of Defense to report on ways to improve the EEO process for DoD civilians.
  • Enact the Elijah Cummings Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination Act: Strengthen EEO protections and increase accountability for federal employees who are found to be responsible for discrimination.
  • Authorize Incentive Pay for Programming Proficiency: Develop a system to track coding language aptitude and proficiency by military servicemembers and DoD civilians and offer financial incentives for needed programming skills.
  • Investigate Suicide at Remote Military Installations: Require a Comptroller General report covering unique challenges of preventing suicide by military servicemembers and military family members at remote bases outside of the contiguous United States.
  • Examine Access to Contraception and Family Planning Education. Require DoD to issue a report on barriers experienced by servicemembers in accessing contraception and the status of implementation of new DoD requirements on reproductive health care, such as ensuring access to contraception for the full length of deployment.

Read more here.

Related Links:
Chair Speier NDAA Provisions Address Military Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner Violence, Racial Justice, Ethics, Military Families, and DoD Oversight and Modernization
Gillibrand: The Military Justice Improvement Act Would Give Service Members a Justice System That Works (July 1, 2019)
Senators Cruz, Gillibrand, Grassley Offer Bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act as Amendment to Defense Bill (July 2, 2020)

House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel: Hearings on Domestic Violence in the Military (September 18, 2019)

Shattered Families, Shattered Service: Taking Military Domestic Violence Out of the Shadows -US House Armed Services Committee (September 18, 2019)

“We are here today because domestic violence has become a forgotten crisis in our military. It has been 15 years since a DOD task force analyzed domestic violence within the military, yet we have seen unsettling warning signs since. Within the last few months, DOD reports have highlighted concerning failures in our services’ domestic violence systems. The DOD has not responded urgently. Today, we will hear from three survivors of domestic violence in the military who are bravely coming forward to share their experiences in the hope that others may be helped. Because we lack data that is recent, plentiful, or granular, we must rely on survivors, advocates and experts to help us understand the unique challenges of dealing with this crisis within the military.” Read more from House Armed Services Committee Chairwoman Jackie Speier here.

Domestic Violence

Panel 1:

Mr. Brian Clubb
Coordinator, Military & Veterans Advocacy Program
Battered Women’s Justice Project

Mr. David S. Lee
Director of Prevention Services
PreventConnect

Ms. Arlene Vassell
Vice President of Programs, Prevention & Social Change
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

Mrs. Rohini Hughes
Survivor and Advocate

Ms. Kate Ranta
Survivor and Advocate

Ms. Leah Olszewski
Survivor and Advocate

Panel 2:

Mrs. A.T. Johnston
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, Department of Defense

Mr. Kenneth Noyes
Associate Director, DOD Family Advocacy Program (Military Family Readiness Policy), Department of Defense

Related Links:
Congressional Testimony | National Center on Domestic & Sexual Violence
Domestic Violence in Military Families
Rep. Braley introduces Holley Lynn James Act
Law protecting military victims of sexual assault discussed
Woman claims Army is protecting abusive husband
Military Domestic Violence and Child Abuse | C-SPAN
Tillis Chairs Hearing on Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in the Military
Heinrich Questions Army Nominee On Domestic Violence Loophole
Senator Hirono Conducts Hearing on Military Domestic Violence
High risk of military domestic violence on the home front
Kirsten Gillibrand Pleads for Military to Review Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence Allegation: ‘We Have Grave Concerns’ for Their Safety
The UCMJ May Get A Domestic Violence Update To Prevent The Next Texas Church Shooting
Sexual Assault in the Mililtary | C-SPAN
Military Not Following Own Rules for On-Base Domestic Violence Investigations
Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case on Doctrine Preventing Military Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
A Unique Military Program Helps Sexual Assault Survivors. But Not All of Them.
Bill giving soldiers right to sue for medical malpractice passes House
Senators introduce bill that would allow service members to sue for medical malpractice
Bid to allow troops to sue for military medical malpractice hits Senate snag
Subcommittee on Military Personnel: Shattered Families, Shattered Service: Taking Military Domestic Violence Out of the Shadows
Opening Statement Chairwoman Jackie Speier, Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Shattered Families, Shattered Service: Taking Military Domestic Violence Out of the Shadows September 18, 2019

Shattered Families, Shattered Service: Taking Military Domestic Violence Out of the Shadows
Congresswoman Speier Holds First House Armed Services Committee Hearing on Domestic Violence in Over 15 Years
House Armed Services Committee tackling sexual assault in the military
Hearing On Military Domestic Violence | NPR
Lawmakers Hear Emotional Stories From ‘Forgotten Crisis’ Of Military Domestic Violence | NPR
Is military domestic violence a ‘forgotten crisis’? | Military Times
Abuse survivors calls domestic violence “black eye of our military” | Connecting Vets
Outreach Key in Addressing Domestic Violence | Department of Defense
Military domestic violence investigation launched | Enid News
Commands Protect Troops and Fail Families in Domestic Abuse Cases, Victims Say | Military.com
Federal Register :: Transitional Compensation (TC) for Abused Dependents

MJFA Research

Domestic violence is more likely to lead to homicide and leaving the abuser is by far the most dangerous time for victims.

People Magazine Published ‘A War at Home’: Five Military Spouses Slain in Six Weeks at Fort Bragg (August 12, 2002)

Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives by Tanya Biank (February 7, 2006)

“December 2, 2002, President Bush signed into law an act that makes domestic violence protective orders enforceable on military installations.”

LCpl Maria Lauterbach/Homicide (2007)

Maria Lauterbach Sexual Assault Hearing (2008) (this was sexual assault and interpersonal violence)

Defense STRONG Act passed (2011) (includes expedited transfer if sexually assaulted)

Jennifer Norris Testimony to HASC (2013) (includes testimony similar to domestic abuse)

Ban on Women in Combat Lifted (2013) (this happened the same day of HASC hearings and as a result it overshadowed the hearings)

Military Policy Recommendations (MJFA) (went to DC and visited congressional members, expansion of expedited transfer policy, independent investigations)

Washington DC Presentation on Fort Hood (MJFA) (went to DC and visited congressional members, status of forces at post with most recorded suicides)

History: The Military and Domestic Abuse (MJFA)

Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) (McCaskill was voted out and Arizona Senator Martha McSally & Senator Joni Ernst are standing in the way now)

Open Letter in support of the MJIA (independent investigations, disband convening authority powers)

NBC Washington: 62 Percent of Military Sex Assault Reports Result in Retaliation (May 18, 2015) (Retaliation is preventing our service members and military families from reporting felony crime)

Deadly Women: 30 Military and Veteran Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery (Domestic violence is happening to men too, we see a higher prevalence of female crime because the military is 85% male att)

Rep Mike Turner Says New Military Legislation Closes a Loophole & Includes Domestic Violence Victims in the Expedited Transfer Policy (unclear what the status of this legislation is, could not find an update)

Gillibrand: The Military Justice Improvement Act Would Give Service Members a Justice System That Works (July 1, 2019)

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Recent DV/Homicides:

Samatha Field/Army Spouse (2018)

Abree Boykin/Army Spouse (2018)

Sgt. Brittany Silvers/Army (2018)

Debbie Forrest/Army Spouse (2019)

Staff Sgt Amy Colburn/Army (2019)

Sgt. Tyrone Hassel/Army (2019)

(this list does not include all victims by a long shot)

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DV/Homicide History:

Sgt. Bill Coffin (1997) > (Army’s inappropriate handling of DV/DA dates back to 1997)

30 Military Domestic Abuse>Homicide Cases

Non Combat Deaths/Females/Iraq

Non Combat Deaths/Females/Afghanistan

Non Combat Deaths/Females/Other Areas

Cases of Significance:

Kamisha Block (2007) (Murder-Suicide in Iraq, case reopened in 2019 to investigate negligence of Chain of Command)

Holley Wimunc (2008) > Holley Lynn James Act (similar to MJIA)

Recruit Michelle Miller (2013) > Michelle’s Law (similar to MJIA)

Dawn Giffa/Army Spouse (2015) > Lawsuit Against Army (Negligence at Fort Hood)

Pfc. Karlyn Ramirez (2015) > (abuse, child custody, homicide)

Pfc. Shadow McClaine (2016) > (abuse, divorce, homicide)

Pvt. Paige Briles (2016) > (abuse, pending divorce, suspected homicide)

Heath Phillips, Active Duty Military & Veterans Advocate, a Voice for Male Victims of Crime

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Heath Phillips, US Navy

Heath Phillips is a US Navy veteran who served his country honorably up until he became a victim of sexual assault while on board the ship he was assigned to. As a result of the crimes, Heath chose not to go back to the ship in an effort to escape the hazing, retaliation, and further sexual and physical assault that awaited him. Instead he went Absent Without Leave (AWOL) and was eventually given an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge from the military. As a result of the discharge status, his life has been impacted greatly up to and including not having the ability to access veteran’s health care and compensation at the Department of Veterans Affairs for the injuries he sustained in the line of duty.

Since 2009, he has been an active voice for male victims of crimes in the military and has helped to educate the public about male military sexual assault issues. He has helped Representative Jackie Speier gain support for the Sexual Assault Training, Oversight, and Prevention Act (STOP Act). He has supported Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in efforts to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). He advocated on behalf of the Human Rights Watch organization for passage of the Fairness for Veterans Act. He continues to work closely with organizations and members of Congress to elevate support for male victims of crimes in the military and improve care for them in active duty and veteran status.

Update (June 2018): Heath Phillips appeared on the Today Show and informed the public that his military discharge status had been upgraded to HONORABLE

In the News:

Military Rape Speech 6 by Congresswoman Jackie Speier: I’ve discussed the military culture where victims are blamed and assailants are promoted. And I’ve shared the personal stories of several women in order to shine a light on this ongoing epidemic. But it is not only our female service members being raped. Men are being victimized too. (July 20, 2011)

Heath Phillips discusses surviving military sexual trauma & respect (July 1, 2018)

Anya Parampil breaks down a report written by the RAND Corporation that shows that there is still a sexual assault crisis in the US military. Anya reviews the findings of the study, which states that sexual assault is most rampant in the Navy. Anya speaks with US Navy Veteran, Heath Phillips, who shares his own experiences with sexual assault in the Navy and offers solutions to end the epidemic. -RT America (September 24, 2018)

Documentaries:

When his commanders would not stop sexual assaults by his shipmates, Heath went AWOL and then accepted a dishonorable discharge to end his torture. Now he is speaking out to change the way military rape is handled. This is his story.

Oral history interview with Heath Phillips by Jason A. Higgins on June 12, 2018. This interview is part of the Incarcerated Veterans Oral History Project, with the support of the UMass Oral History Lab. In the interview, U.S. Navy veteran Heath Phillips discusses his early life growing up with a Vietnam veteran father; his motivations for joining the military at seventeen; recounts 10 months of sexual violence aboard the U.S.S. Butte; the impact of Military Sexual Trauma, PTSD, and an other-than-honorable discharge on his post-military life; incarceration and twenty years of alcoholism; his path toward recovery; and his advocacy for other survivors of sexual trauma. -Incarcerated Veterans Project

Related Links:
Uniform Betrayal: Rape in the Military (Documentary)
Heath’s Story of Surviving Military Sexual Assault
Military Rape Speech 6 by Congresswoman Jackie Speier
Rape in the Military, The Rest of the Story…
Military sexual assault victims break the silence
Service members choose AWOL over rape
Breaking the Silence: Men who are sexually assaulted in the military often find it difficult to report the crime, that’s one reason they rarely get justice.
Gillibrand Opening Statement at Senate Subcommittee Hearing Examining Impact of Military Sexual Assault, Links to PTSD and Suicides
Son, Men Don’t Get Raped
Sexual assault survivor addresses Soldiers of Combat Aviation Brigade
Command Highlights (April 2016): A Look at What the Army Commands Are Doing In Their SHARP Programs (FORSCOM)
Booted: Lack of Recourse for Wrongfully Discharged US Military Rape Survivors
Military Sexual Assault Victims Discharged After Filing Complaints
Derogatory discharge papers blight lives of military who report sexual assault
New Report Says Pentagon Not Doing Enough For Sexual Assault Victims
Derogatory Discharge Papers Blight Lives Of Military Who Report Sexual Assault
Military must do right by wrongly-discharged sexual assault victims, advocates say
Coffman Introduces Fairness for Veterans Act (Ensures veterans with PTSD receive due consideration in post-discharge appeals process)
Why the Navy is making a major change in its approach to PTSD
‘It savaged my life’: military sexual assault survivors fighting to become visible
Raising Awareness And Support For Male Victims Of Sexual Assault In The Military
Rep Nikki Tsongas & Rep Mike Turner Host Educational Caucus: Improving Treatment Resources for Male Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma (2016)
Navy Finally Listens to Sexual Assault Victim
More Vets Who Are Coping With PTSD From Sexual Assaults Get Honorable Discharges
More Vets Who Are Coping With PTSD From Sexual Assaults Get Honorable Discharges
Navy reverses administrative discharge for service member sexually assaulted decades ago
After nearly 29 years, Navy reverses ‘other than honorable’ discharge for sailor sexually assaulted by 6 shipmates
‘A sense of validation’: After nearly 30 years, U.S. Navy admits it ignored sailor’s sexual assault
He went AWOL after being sexually assaulted. After 30 years, the Navy finally believed him.
RAPE and SEXUAL ASSAULT are Dirty Little Secrets for the Military, Especially the United States Navy
NAVY veteran Heath Phillips, who survived sexual assault, speaks out
Heath Phillips discusses surviving military sexual trauma & respect
Heath Phillips discusses Surviving Military Sexual Trauma & Respect 2
Heath Phillips shares with Mike Domitrz about Military Sexual Trauma & Being a Survivor
Episode 107 – Talk with Heath Phillips | Oscar Mike Radio On Mission – Always (08/16/18)
Heath Phillips speaking at Fort Drum on sexual assault
Heath Phillips speaking at Syracuse University about sexual assault in the military
Heath Phillips Oral History Interview by Jason A. Higgins, Incarcerated Veterans Project
Heath Phillips on Talking about Trauma, Incarcerated Veterans Project
Heath Phillips Rehappening of Trauma, Incarcerated Veterans Project
Heath Phillips on Rape Culture and Silence in the Military (PAMLA18)
Heath Phillips on Military Injustice, Incarcerated Veterans Project
Sexual Assault Crisis in Military Still a Reality – Report

Retired Marine Stephanie Schroeder Fights for Servicemember’s Rights at the United Nation’s Geneva Conventions (November 11, 2014)

Stephanie Schroeder addressing the United Nations

Marine veteran Stephanie Schroeder addressing the United Nations (November 11, 2014)

Stephanie Schroeder is a retired United States Marine Corps veteran who was wrongfully discharged from service after reporting a felony crime to USMC authorities. As a result of reporting these crimes, she experienced retaliation from her peers and leadership and was subsequently given a honorable discharge but her DD 214 indicated that she was released from duty due to a personality disorder. Stephanie sought justice to right a wrong committed by her leadership. She was never given any testing to determine if she in fact had a personality disorder nor did she see any medical personnel who would have had an opportunity to diagnose her with a personality disorder. Through research and determination, Stephanie learned that other veterans who had reported sexual assault in the military had also experienced retaliation in one form or another after reporting the crime(s) to leadership. She vowed to not only fight for herself and the correction of her records but also to help prevent other service members from experiencing the same.

Stephanie Schroeder has been leading the way on military retaliation & personality disorder discharge reform for years. She participated in two federal lawsuits (Cioca v Rumsfeld & Klay v Panetta) that were dismissed because rape is incident to service. She advocates for both the Stop Act (Sexual Assault Training, Oversight, and Prevention Act) sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier and the Military Justice Improvement Act sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She represented victims of military sexual assault at the United Nations at the Geneva Conventions in Switzerland. She continues to represent Cornell University, Service Women’s Action Network, & Equality Now as an advocate before the United Nations and monitors/advises on sexual assault & retaliation policy implementation in the military. She is a board member for the United States Human Rights Network (USHRN) and the International Mechanisms Coordinating Committee Board (ICMM).

Related Links:
Stephanie Schroeder, USMC Veteran (Facebook)
Cioca v Rumsfeld First Amended Complaint Jury Demand
Military’s newly aggressive rape prosecution has pitfalls
Military Rape Speech 15 by Congresswoman Jackie Speier
Stephanie Schroeder’s military sex assault claim leads to psych discharge
Rape victims say military labels them ‘crazy’
The Military Labeling Rape Survivors as “Crazy” to Get Rid of Them?
Military May Be Gaslighting Sexual Assault Victims
Employers Gone Wild: U.S. military banishes rape victims with damning psychiatric diagnoses
‘Personality Disorder’ Discharge, Frequent Solution in Rising Number of Military Sexual Assault Cases
U.S. military banishes rape victims with damning psychiatric diagnoses
Fear of Reprisal: The Quiet Accomplice in the Military’s Sexual-Assault Epidemic
Now That Women Are Cleared For Combat, How About A Rape-Free Workplace?
Cioca v Rumsfeld US Court of Appeals Decision
Fear of Reprisal: The Quiet Accomplice in the Military’s Sexual-Assault Epidemic
Former Marine to Speak at Geneva Convention Against Sexual Abuse
Ex-Marine to speak at Geneva Convention against sexual abuse
Local Marine to speak against sexual abuse at Geneva Convention
UN Committee to Review Cornell Law Report on Sexual Violence in the U.S. Military
Building a U.S. Movement to End Torture
Powerful Stories from Directly Impacted Individuals at CAT Review
BARELY LEGAL: Sexual Violence in the U.S. Military
Exclusive: Victims of military sexual assault appeal to human rights panel
I’m a Military Sexual Assault Survivor & the US apologized at the Torture Review
Military Sexual Assault: Reporting and Rape Culture
Advice for Veterans with Military Sexual Trauma Claims
New rules on narcotic painkillers cause grief for veterans and VA
Davidson County veteran, victim of sexual assault changing the face of today’s military
8 women Marines define themselves within and beyond the uniform

The Stop Act versus MJIA

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Amy Schumer, a comedian, has depicted the unexpected turn your career takes when you become the victim of sexual assault in the military. We are not only harmed by the perpetrator but we are again harmed by the system. And currently we have two proposals in Congress that begin to address the issue. One is the Stop Act sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier. The other is the Military Justice Improvement Act sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Please watch the Amy Schumer video here before reading further.

If you keep up with Congressional efforts to address sexual assault in the military, you will find that the media discusses Senator Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act the most. But what most people do not know is that the MJIA was a compromise to our original efforts. I supported any efforts made by the Senate at the time considering we did not get the support we needed for the Stop Act from either the House of Representatives or military and women organizations. At the time, it was better then nothing and at least Senator Gillibrand addressed an option for our military members who do not report due to fear of retaliation from their Chain of Command. But it is only one element of the big picture.

Continue reading

Pentagon using change in diagnoses to hide sexual assault cases, critics charge Switch from ‘personality’ to ‘adjustment’ disorder discharges

Lawmakers say they fear the Defense Department has found a new way to drum sexual assault victims out of the service: by diagnosing adjustment disorder and having them discharged from the military.

It’s the latest technique the department has used to retaliate against troops who report they were sexually assaulted, according to members of Congress who are determined to use this year’s defense policy debate to curtail the practice and get justice for the service members who they say were illegally discharged in the past.

“It’s like a ‘Whac-A-Mole,’” said Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat. “Every time we shut them down on something, they’ll find a way around it.”

Read more here.