Massachusetts School of Law Interviews Veteran Jennifer Norris About Violent Crime in the Military & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Massachusetts School of Law explored violent crime in the military with Jennifer Norris, Military Justice for All, and the impact it has on civilians too. Jennifer talked about her experiences with four different perpetrators within the first two years of her enlisted career, the reporting & adjudication process, and the retaliation that ensued and eventually ended a fifteen year career. Also discussed was the jurisdictional hurdles that arise with a transient population like the military. For example, Jennifer was not able to press charges against one perpetrator because he moved out of state after learning he was getting reported. Another perpetrator was active duty Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, therefore a state National Guard commander did not have jurisdiction of a federal employee. And finally, although Jennifer was able to move forward with two other cases involving high ranking National Guard members with over eighteen years of service, unlike the civilian world, after the cases were adjudicated, they retired with full military retirement benefits and no public records.

Jennifer also shared that although the Department of Defense downplays violent crime in the military and sexual assault appears to be closely monitored by some female members of Congress, everything is not under control. The crime appears to be escalating. The military doesn’t just have a sexual assault issue, they have a domestic violence and homicide issue as well. They also have a pattern of ruling soldier’s deaths both stateside and overseas as suicides, training accidents, and illness despite families strongly protesting and evidence revealing otherwise. Domestic violence is more likely to lead to homicide and unfortunately the two issues have not been given the attention they deserve because until you do the research yourself and see how many families and communities have been impacted by the crimes, suspicious death, and homicide of a soldier or civilian, you wouldn’t know because Congress and the main stream media do not give it the attention it deserves. Homicide and independent investigations of all suspicious deaths should be given the highest priority not only because people have lost their lives and families deserve answers but because someone needs to be held accountable. We must prevent others from becoming victims of these crimes too.

Jennifer discussed the lasting impacts the crimes and retaliation had on her. Jennifer was empowered after doing all that she could do to protect others from getting harmed by the same people, but her squadron did not see it the same way. After the cases were adjudicated, Jennifer faced hostility from a couple of the perpetrator’s friends and her Chain of Command once she returned back to work. She eventually had to transfer to another squadron. It was the professional and personal retaliation that made her start feeling more intense feelings of anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. And unfortunately her next squadron wasn’t any more welcoming then the last. She was told shortly after arriving that ‘no female makes it in the satellite communications work center’ and that she was experiencing hostility from her new Chain of Command because the old squadron called and informed them she was a ‘troublemaker.’ The retaliation had a direct impact on her mental health and cemented an already traumatizing experience with further abuse, indifference, and judgement. By the time she got to her third squadron (almost ten years after the first attack), she learned that the Department of Veterans Affairs treated Post Traumatic Stress resulting from military sexual trauma.

After Jennifer informed her third squadron that she was getting help for the PTS at the Department of Veterans Affairs, she was immediately red flagged and asked to leave the squadron until she could produce a note from her doctor giving her permission to be at work. She did this and jumped through the other hoops asked of her in an attempt to save her career but lost confidentiality in the process. Jennifer walked away from her career in the end because she refused to release her VA records for a security clearance investigation. The entire experience not only opened her up to judgement again (simply because she asked for some counseling due to what someone else did) but she had to prove that she was ‘fit for duty’ while the perpetrators were enjoying full military retirement benefits. Jennifer chose a second chance at a civilian career when she refused to release her confidential VA records for her security clearance investigation because she wanted to ensure a future free of a tainted security clearance. It makes zero sense that someone who is a victim of crime be negatively impacted by the crimes of others in yet another way. The hypocrisy of the system is truly revealed when you look at how the perpetrators were let off the hook but the victim of crime loses their military career because they had the strength to first report and then eventually ask for help.

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

TSgt Steven Bellino, US Air Force (2016)

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TSgt Steven Bellino, US Air Force

TSgt Steven Bellino, 41, US Air Force, passed away on April 8, 2016 at Joint Base San-Antonio in Texas.

Related Links:
Obituary: Steven D. Bellino
Technical Sgt. Steven D. Bellino, Save Our Heroes
Two Airmen Fatally Shot at San Antonio Base Identified
Air Force Officials Identified Two Men Killed In Workplace Violence
Lackland AFB shooting victims identified as TSgt and squadron commander
Victims in Lackland shooting ID’d as former FBI agent, squadron commander
Gunman in Texas Air Force Base Killing Had Gone AWOL
Lackland AFB Shooter Was Facing Disciplinary Action For Going AWOL
Training Squadron Commander, Student ID’d as Airmen Dead in Air Force Base Shooting
Lackland Air Force Base Gunman in Murder-Suicide was Ex-FBI Agent
Official: Ex-FBI Agent Was Gunman in Texas Base Shooting
Suspect in Apparent Murder-Suicide at Texas Air Force Base Was a Former FBI Agent
Lackland base shooter ID’ed as former FBI agent, Iraq war veteran
Air Force: Student from Northeast Ohio killed commander at Lackland AFB
Texas Air Force base gunman was from Parma Heights, reports say
Commander ‘went out swinging’ in Lackland murder-suicide
Air Force commander ‘went out swinging’ during deadly shooting with former FBI agent at Texas base
Special Operations airman killed his squadron commander in apparent-murder suicide
Gunman in Texas Air Force base killing had gone AWOL, then taken mental health exam
A Long Career in Military’s Elite Spirals Into a Killing and a Suicide
Lackland gunman had been a standout soldier
Air Force: PTSD, other factors led airman to kill commander
Air Force reports: PTSD, other factors led airman to kill commander
Special Forces Vet Killed Himself, Commander Because Of Failing Career
Special Forces vet took two guns, a knife and a grudge into fatal meeting
In wake of Lackland shooting, Air Force aims to remove dropouts quicker
Family of Spec Ops Airman, who killed commander, alleges a USAF cover-up
A disputed suicide note and other documents trace Steve Bellino’s descent
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas

The gunman behind the fatal shooting at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland has been identified as Steven D. Bellino, a former FBI agent who later enlisted in the US Air Force. Bellino was an FBI agent for less than two years before resigning in 2013. Authorities have not confirmed why Lt. Col. William A. Schroeder was targeted in the murder/suicide attack.

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

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.”

Give Our Troops Constitutional Rights for Veteran’s Day, Pass the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA)

MJIA

The Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), although not the final answer, is a great first step in our fight for justice for crime victims. Currently, the Department of Defense (DoD) estimates that 26,300 service members are victims of military sexual assault (touching). These numbers do not include other violent crimes, sexual harassment, stalking, bullying, hazing, etc. Of those numbers, the DoD estimates that more then half of them are male victims, which proves that this is not a female issue but instead a repeat offender issue.

The military’s current justice system elevates an individual Commander’s discretion over the rule of law. The MJIA legislation would help us create an impartial system where victims would feel safe to report. They are telling us in their own voices that they do not trust the Chain of Command to handle their cases effectively. Recent DoD studies have shown that 62% of those who reported were in fact retaliated against which reinforces others to remain silent.

The MJIA would not only give them a safe place to report confidentially but would allow a legal professional to determine whether or not a case should be tried in a court of law. The biggest problem with military sexual assault is underreporting. We can’t fix the problem unless the soldiers feel safe enough to report. We can’t rid the military of perpetrators if we do not work together to get a conviction and protect our military and civilians.

Learn more here.

The Real News: With Military Failing To Prosecute Rapists, Calls Grow for Civilian Prosecutor (2013)

Jennifer Norris: Even with 1 out of 3 women facing sexual assault in the military, the Defense Department refuses to hold sexual predators accountable within the military justice system

Breaking the Set: Rape in the Military, Exposing Susan Rice, & Secrets of Bilderberg (2013)

Abby Martin Breaks the Set on Aid to Israel, Sexual Assault Surging in the Military, Susan Rice’s Warmongering Past, and Secrets of Bilderberg.

CCTV News: Jennifer Norris Discusses Sexual Assault in the U.S. Military (2013)

Anchor Anand Naidoo and Jennifer Norris, a retired Air Force Sergeant, discuss sexual assault in the U.S. military.

CBS News: Sexual assault victim, “The system is rigged” (2013)

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 12.29.59 AMWith tears streaming down her face, Jennifer Norris, a former Technical Sergeant in the Air Force, describes her harrowing experience with sexual assault and the difficulty she had in seeking justice within the military chain of command, saying, “The system is rigged against the victims” and in favor of the “often higher-ranking perpetrators.” [VIDEO]