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?

Letter of Support for Save Our Heroes in Our Shared Quest for Military Justice Reform & Constitutional Rights

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October 1, 2016

U.S. House of Representatives
United States Senate
Washington, DC

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a letter of support for Save Our Heroes. We recognized immediately that Save Our Heroes and victims of crimes both want similar changes in the military justice system. Save Our Heroes is asking for three specific legislative/policy changes to restore fundamental fairness in the military justice system:

1. Remove all Commanders authority from decision-making in the legal system.
2. The number of panel members should be increased to 12 for General Courts Martial.
3. Any conviction at Courts Martial shall require a unanimous verdict.

These requests by Save Our Heroes are similar to the overall changes that victims of crimes in the military have lobbied for, specifically that Commanders be removed from the reporting and decision-making process because of fear of bias, lack of investigative training, and the power to discharge and/or punish with the stroke of a pen. Save Our Heroes is requesting the same changes because ultimately both the victims and accused are looking for a military justice system that mirrors the civilian justice system while respecting the need of the Commanding Officer to ensure discipline is maintained within their command. We want a justice system where crimes are reported to legal authorities and not a Commander who is an authority figure with the power to impact your entire life. We want a justice system where crimes will be investigated thoroughly by unbiased military criminal investigative organizations looking for the truth. We want a justice system that provides the same constitutional rights as those provided in the civilian justice system. Save Our Heroes is specifically asking for changes that are commonplace in the civilian justice system, like a jury of twelve of our peers and a unanimous verdict. Our military deserves no less.

Victims of crimes in the military are asking for a military justice system that provides due process for the accuser and the accused. Crime victims want the ability to go to trial based on an independent prosecutor’s decision to charge because there was sufficient evidence to move forward with a case. Crime victims want those people who level false accusations, and engage in other abuses of the process, to be held accountable. While we recognize that false reports represent a small percentage of total reports (between 2-8 percent based on Bureau of Justice Statistics data), those who do falsely accuse are hurting the real victims of these crimes and should be held accountable through the same impartial military justice system. Both the accusers and the accused are asking for due process, which is best accomplished by a system that mirrors the civilian justice system. Currently, Commanders have control of the process when the accused, accuser, defense attorneys, and prosecutors should have control over the process.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Norris, Military Justice for All
Stephanie Schroeder, US Human Rights Network & UN Board Member
Brian Lewis, Men Recovering from Military Sexual Trauma

Photojournalist Mary Calvert Makes Military Sexual Assault a Priority

Mary Calvert

Mary Calvert

“Why is this happening?”

To answer that question, Mary Calvert met with survivors and went to congressional hearings on military sexual assault. The women she met connected her with more women, and she photographed them in their homes and communities. Through her work, she learned that just 1 in 7 victims of sexual assault in the military reported the attack; of those assaults that were reported, just 1 in 10 ever saw a trial.

Original story featured in Cosmopolitan.

Military Women: We Got Fired for Being Raped

National GuardNew legislation in Iowa would address sexual assault and retaliation in the National Guard

“I was one of many that had a career ended shortly because I simply reported a sexual assault,” Jennifer Norris said.

Norris retired as a technical sergeant from the United States Air Force in 2010 and also served in the Maine and Massachusetts National Guards. Norris testified before Congress that during her military career, she was sexually assaulted four times between 1996 and 1998. She says after she finally reported the attacks to her supervisor, she faced retaliation.

“I went back and was blown away at how much disdain and hatred I faced as a result of standing up for what was right and protecting other women,” Norris said. “That right in and of itself was the biggest betrayal I ever experienced in my life….When you have zero support and you are alone, it will push you to the place Jessica Brown has been. I have been there.”

Read more here.

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

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

Clear Pattern of the Army Tossing Soldiers Who Have PTSD

The Wounded Platoon

The Wounded Platoon (PBS)

Day after day I hear first hand accounts of not only the Army but all of the Armed Forces forcing troops out for PTSD or some trumped up misconduct charge. And what really gets my goat is that these are people who have been in the military for a long time, have deployed overseas, and now suffer from some kind of war injury. Is this the way that you envisioned the military would treat our troops after all that they have sacrificed.

I find it ironic that Officers who get caught with felony charges can quietly retire after the media blows it up to hold them accountable. Yet a soldier who has been in 19 years, did four rotations overseas, and snapped on the fourth rotation because you sent them there knowing they had PTSD, gets the bad conduct discharge. This is criminal. How dare you Army do this to someone with 19 years of dedicated service. What happened to the whole person concept? Why is it that a fight or flight response is now being used against a soldier when the symptoms include disassociation, irritability, distrust, fear, etc. Why is it that you act like people are faking when they just did four tours of duty.

Continue reading

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.

Drug Facilitated Sexual Assaults in the Military

AlcoholTime to learn more about drug facilitated sexual assaults since they seem to be so prevalent in the US military. Not only did I personally go through this kind of chemical restraint as a new recruit in the Air National Guard but in my work as a victim advocate, I have seen the same modus operandi used over and over by enemies within the ranks.  These very skilled perpetrators are using alcohol and illegal drugs to create an opportunity or carry out a premeditated plan to take control of their victim.  As a result of going through the experience of being drugged, I can tell you that because I never thought I would be a victim of a crime like this, I had a hard time accepting that it happened. I was stunned that someone was able to overpower me either physically or through the use of illicit drugs. I never imagined that others would use a drug or alcohol as a weapon to facilitate the crime. It is an insidious form of violence and it’s time to call it what it actually is: Drug Facilitated Sexual Assaults.

Drug facilitated assault: when drugs or alcohol are used to compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity. In addition, drugs and alcohol are often used in order to minimize the resistance and memory of the victim of a sexual assault.

According to RAINN, “Alcohol remains the most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assault, but there are also substances being used by perpetrators including: Rohypnol, GHB, GBL, etc.” Perpetrators will often groom the victim so that they can set up the environment to use the alcohol or drugs to incapacitate their victims.  Grooming involves the process of attempting to set up or stage individuals for sexual abuse by using a variety of methods to promote trust. Offenders who are strangers to the survivor as well as offenders who are family or known to the survivor will use grooming behaviors. Grooming will often build trust between offenders and other people (the survivor, caretakers of the survivor, etc.) to break down defenses, and give offenders easier access to others (Help in Healing, A Training Guide for Advocates).

Diminished capacity exists when an individual does not have the capacity to consent. Reasons for this inability to consent include, but are not limited to: sleeping, drugged, passed out, unconscious, mentally incapacitated, etc. It is important to understand diminished capacity because oftentimes victims of sexual assault in these situations blame themselves because they drank, did drugs, etc. It is essential to emphasize that it is not his or her fault, that the aggressor is the one who took advantage of his or her diminished capacity. Some of the drugs used to facilitate the drug induced sexual assault include Rohypnol, GHB, GBL, Benzodiazepines, Ketamine, and Ecstasy. (RAINN.org)

Example of Predator in Action: Air National Guard Recruiter Rapes New Recruit

As we learn more about the modus operandi of predators, we learn that not only do they groom their victims and use alcohol and drugs to incapacitate them, but they also have behaviors that are specific to sex offenders (Salter, 1995):

  • Attitudes of ownership and entitlement
  • Engaging in anti-social behavior
  • Engaging in other criminal, possible non-sexual crimes
  • Isolating others, particularly women
  • Failure to consider injury to others

As a result of losing that control, I no longer trust the bar environments, drinking with others, or drinking and losing control in any fashion. But for those of you who do want to go out and have fun, here are some safety tips for safe drinking from RAINN.

  1. Don’t leave your drink unattended while talking, dancing, using the ladie’s room, or making a phone call.
  2. At parties, don’t drink from punch bowls or other large, common open containers.
  3. If someone offers to get you a drink from the bar at the club or party, go with them to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself.
  4. Watch out for your friends, and vice versa. Always leave the party or bar together. If a friend seems out of it, is way too drunk for the amount of liquor she’s had, or is acting out of character, get her to a safety place immediately.
  5. If you think you or a friend has been drugged, call 911, and be explicit with doctors so they’ll give you the right tests (you’ll need a urine test and possibly others). The National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE) can often send an advocate to the hospital to help you through the whole process.

Lastly, if you are in the military and you want safe and confidential service from a non-governmental organization created by one of our own (free of worrying about whether or not your Chain of Command is going to find out), please contact us at www.stopmilitaryrape.org. We will support you and help you navigate the military sexual assault services available to you.