Dates To Remember:
Unless this tragedy is recognized as the readiness and
national security issue that it is, it will continue. Male and female
veteran advocacy for resolution at the Congressional level is badly
needed. Thanks for your review.
From: Chris Myers and Cherie Rankin [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 8:05 AM
To: VFP women's comittee :
Subject: Military Sexual Assaults
Group Decries Military on Sex Assaults
Tuesday July 13, 2004 3:31 PM
By JON SARCHE, Associated Press Writer
DENVER (AP) - Nearly 200 women serving in the Middle East say they have been sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers in the past 21 months, a victims' advocacy group said Monday as it criticized the U.S. military for falling short in addressing the problem.
From October 2002 through June, the Miles Foundation received 187 reports from the region - and fewer than half had been reported to military authorities, said Christine Hansen, executive director of the Connecticut-based group.
During the same period, the Pentagon has received 112 reports, Hansen said.
Defense officials are working with members of Congress to bring the Uniform Code of Military Justice sexual assault provisions, last updated in 1951, closer to those in the civilian justice system.
Those efforts have gained urgency with increased awareness of sexual assaults prompted by media reports of such crimes among soldiers serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain, Hansen said during the annual conference of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Hansen said military law and policy do not provide alleged victims the privacy rights given to their civilian counterparts. And military law allows commanding officers to decide against prosecuting a case if the alleged victim chooses not to participate.
That means women who are assaulted and want a prosecution to go forward are faced with opening intimate details of their lives to their commanding officer and military lawyers.
``From the victim's perspective, they are in the middle of crisis and trauma, and they're being asked to make life-altering decisions,'' Hansen said.
In part because of the lack of privacy, the Defense Department has received fewer reports of sexual assault among soldiers in the Middle East than has the Miles Foundation, which can provide confidential services and counseling, Hansen said.
``The (Department of Defense's) response was to tell Congress `We're going to start conducting training,''' she said. ``There will be no change in the U.S. armed forces' responses to this unless there's a foundation of law and policy to support it.
``Training, training, training is not the answer because you have to have that foundation so when the training doesn't work, you can hold them accountable.''
Denise Mitchell, an Army Community Service victim advocate at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, said one of the biggest obstacles to prosecution is the military commander's discretion in deciding whether to go forward with a court-martial.
``Their purpose in their life is their job, and I respect that. But at the same time, they have a responsibility'' to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, she said.
In February, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered an investigation into the treatment of servicewomen in the Gulf war zone who report sexual assaults by their male comrades. A defense official said the memo came in response to media reports about sexual assaults in the region, including a Jan. 25 story by The Denver Post.
According to defense officials, some 60,000 military women served within the region managed by U.S. Central Command, which includes Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, between October 2002 and November 2003. Most were in Iraq and Kuwait.
The Pentagon released a report in May acknowledging problems in how the military handles assault allegations. The task force said victims were treated inconsistently and too often suffered from a lack of support from commanders, criminal investigators and doctors.
The foundation, which first raised concerns in press reports about a spate of assaults on women serving in Iraq and Kuwait, has criticized the Pentagon with failing to take appropriate steps to address the problem.
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