The Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel held a hearing March 13 to investigate sexual assault in the military. This issue was among the important topics that was discussed on March 15th at a very special lunch on women in the military hosted by The Common Good, dedicated to the advancement of our women who serve.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Senator Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator (D-NH)
The first woman in history to be elected a Governor and a United States Senator, Jeanne Shaheen has been involved in all levels of New Hampshire life. She became the first woman elected Governor of New Hampshire, serving three terms from 1997-2003. In 2008 Shaheen became the first woman elected to the United States Senate from New Hampshire. She chairs the Committee on Foreign Relations’ Subcommittee on European Affairs, and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water and Power. Shaheen is also a member of the Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. She and her husband, Bill, live in Madbury, New Hampshire, and have three daughters, Stefany, Stacey and Molly, and seven grandchildren.
Executive Director and Co-Founder, Service Women’s Action Network
Anu is SWAN’s first Executive Director. A former Captain and Company Commander, Anu served as a Marine officer from 1999-2004. Under Anu’s leadership, SWAN has spearheaded legislative reform and litigation to end military rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence, and to eliminate all barriers to equal opportunity for service women. Anu has testified before Congress, advised the White House and the United Nations, and has spoken to countless audiences on challenges faced by military women, including the Combat Exclusion policy, Military Sexual Trauma, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and the VA health care and benefits system. A regular contributor to the media, Anu has been featured on Piers Morgan Tonight, the CNN Situation Room, MSNBC, NBC Nightly News, NPR, the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time and Newsweek.
News Editor, The Huffington Post
Molly previously worked as a reporter for Reuters in Washington, D.C. She has written for the Associated Press, The New York Times online, Newsweek, USA Today and The Nation, among others. She graduated cum laude from Cornell University with a BA in English and earned a dual MA in journalism and international relations at New York University.
Board Member, OutServe-SLDN
Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton is a Board member of OutServe-SLDN, the national organization supporting LGBT members of the Armed Forces. A Florida native, Fulton graduated West Point in 1980, part of the first class to include women, and was commissioned in the Army. She served as a platoon leader, staff officer, and company commander in Germany, and was honorably discharged as a Captain.
In 2009, she co-founded Knights Out, an organization of LGBT West Point graduates and allies, and later helped Josh Seefried and Ty Walrod launch OutServe, the association of actively-serving LGBT military personnel. She served both organizations as Communications Director and later became Executive Director of Knights Out. A key player in the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Fulton was appointed by President Obama to the U.S. Military Academy Board of Visitors in 2011 – the first openly gay member of the Board.
In December, 2012, Fulton and her longtime partner Penny Gnesin became the first same-sex couple to marry in the Cadet Chapel at West Point. She currently works for a pharmaceutical company and lives with Penny in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
RELATED NEWS / OPINION
New York Times Editorial, March 12, 2013
A Senate Armed Services subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on sexual assaults in the military on Wednesday, the first Senate hearing on the issue in nearly a decade. There will certainly be a lot to talk about.
The Pentagon estimates as many as 19,000 service members are assaulted annually, but only a small fraction of the incidents — 3,191 in 2011 — get reported and about 10 percent of those cases proceed to trial. In all, around 1 in 3 military women has been sexually assaulted, a rate twice as high as the civilian rate. And veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of rape or other sexual trauma have a hard time collecting veterans’ disability benefits. During the 2011-12 academic year, the nation’s three elite military academies reported a record number of sexual assault cases, according to the Defense Department.
By James Risen, New York Times, March 11, 2013
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is beginning an internal review of a decision by a senior Air Force commander to overturn the sexual assault conviction of an Air Force fighter pilot, he said in a letter to top lawmakers made public Monday.
Mr. Hagel’s decision to intervene comes amid mounting criticism from Congress as well as outside advocacy groups of the Pentagon’s handling of a series of high-profile sexual assault cases in the military. In particular, critics have complained about the power of commanders to unilaterally dismiss criminal charges or convictions without explanation, which they say makes it less likely that women in the military will report sexual assaults for fear of retaliation.
Mr. Hagel said he would review the decision by Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, the commander of the Third Air Force, to dismiss the sexual assault conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a pilot who was also the inspector general of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base in Italy. Colonel Wilkerson was found guilty in November of aggravated sexual assault and was sentenced to one year in military prison. General Franklin’s decision to overturn the findings of the court-martial freed Colonel Wilkerson, and allowed him to be reinstated in the Air Force.
In a March 7 letter to Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, Mr. Hagel said that while General Franklin’s decision could not be overturned, he had asked Pentagon lawyers and the secretary of the Air Force to review the way in which General Franklin decided the case. He also said he wanted a review of whether the military should change the way it handles sexual assault cases.
By Saudi Garcia, Policymic, March 10, 2013
The passage of an act that allows women into combat units and the recent highlight of rape in the military can lead the public to wonder about questions of gender equality and the new division of labor for women in the United States Military. Sexual assault in the military and their resulting trauma are problems that the U.S. military must take head on if they wish to welcome more women into combat service.
By Billy Birdzell, Time Magazine, March 04, 2013
Last month, outgoing defense secretary Leon Panetta declared men and women would have the same chance to fight in combat for the first time in our nation’s history. But from the day they meet a recruiter, until the day they are discharged, women and men — in every service — have different physical fitness standards.
Stated simply, Panetta’s new policy violates the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, because women are held to lower standards than men for the same jobs, with the same pay, with the same potential for advancement — just because they are women.
by David Frum, The Daily Beast, March 1, 2013
Conservatives often stand accused these days of standing outside the “reality-based community.” Yet liberals can be blinded by ideology, and nowhere is this more true than in the debate over women in combat.
Over the past two decades, the United States has moved steadily to open all military roles to women. Last month, departing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the last barriers. Women may henceforward qualify for every duty, including combat infantry. The few – very few – public objections raised to this decision were met with derision rather than argument, well represented by this sneering item from the Daily Show.
Yet to deny the highly combat-relevant differences between the sexes is to deny reality as blatantly as ever done by any anti-evolutionist – and with potentially much more lethal consequence.
In 2007, Kingsley Browne gathered the evidence in a clear and concise book, Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight the Nation’s Wars. The case presented by Browne won’t come as news to any military decision-maker. But it will and should jolt those who have relied on too credulous media sources for their information about what soldiers do and how they do it.
By LAWRENCE DOWNES, New York Times, February 28,2013
An editorial in The Times last Sunday welcomed the introduction of the Ruth Moore Act, a bill in Congress to make it easier for veterans to collect disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder caused by sexual assaults they suffered in the military.
The editorial cited research by the Service Women’s Action Network, an advocacy organization, which reviewed records from the Department of Veterans Affairs and found that from 2008 to 2010 it approved only about one-third of PTSD claims related to sexual trauma, compared with more than half of all other PTSD claims.
The V.A. now says that figure is obsolete, and that more recent data show its approval rates are much higher. It credits efforts begun in 2011 by Allison Hickey, a retired brigadier general who is under secretary for benefits, to make sure that V.A. employees were trained to properly handle claims of military sexual trauma, or M.S.T.
Trauma Sets Female Veterans Adrift Back Home (Part 2 of 2)
By Patricia Leigh Brown, New York Times (2/27/2013)
“Even as the Pentagon lifts the ban on women in combat roles, returning servicewomen are facing a battlefield of a different kind: they are now the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, an often-invisible group bouncing between sofa and air mattress, overnighting in public storage lockers, living in cars and learning to park inconspicuously on the outskirts of shopping centers to avoid the violence of the streets.”
Attacked at 19 by an Air Force Trainer, and Speaking Out (Part 1 of 2)
By James Risen, New York Times (2/26/2013)
“While Air Force officials say they have taken steps to better protect their most vulnerable personnel, including appointing a female commander to oversee basic training and tightening supervision of instructors, critics say they do not go far enough in addressing an issue across the military: a high rate of sexual assaults that are often not reported because women fear reprisals.”
Defense Department’s decision to end ban on women in combat may make draft registration co-ed
By Associated Press (02/25/2013)
“The Obama administration’s recent decision to lift the ban on women in combat has opened the door for a change in the law that currently compels only men between age 18 and 25 to register for a military draft, according to legal experts and military historians.
Never before has the country drafted women into military service, and neither the administration nor Congress is in a hurry to make them register for a future call-up. But, legally, they may have no other choice.”
More on Women in the Military >>