Today, Air Force Sergeant Luis Walker's court-martial in the Lackland Air Force Base sexual abuse scandal begins in Texas. Walker faces 28 charges including multiple counts of rape, aggravated sexual contact and aggravated sexual assault. If convicted of all counts, he could get life in prison and a dishonorable discharge. A seven-member jury of military-personnel will decide the case, which is only the first of at least 12 cases in the Lackland Air Force Base scandal.
In a phone interview with The Daily Beast, California Congresswoman Jackie Speier "expressed her frustration with repeated but seemingly empty calls for 'zero tolerance'" of sexual assault by the military. Speier is joining forces with Paula Coughlin, a woman who came forward as a Navy Lieutenant in 1992 with her own story of sexual assault in the military, and the organization Protect Our Defenders, in calling for a congressional hearing into the Lackland case.
Vice-chair of the House Armed Services Committee Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said there is "no evidence" of a serious sexual assault problem at Lackland. Thus far, one quarter of Lackland's instructors have been charged or are being investigated for sexual misconduct and at least 31 victims have come forward.
A 2012 Pentagon report found that 3,192 cases of sexual assault were reported within the U.S. military in 2012, which is a 1 percent increase from 2010. However, according to the Defense Department, only an estimated 15 percent of actual incidents are reported, which brings the estimated number up to 19,000 assaults each year.
Currently, reports of sexual assault are handled within the military's chain of command. Elizabeth Hillman, president of the National Institute for Military Justice, claims that the military's emphasis on hierarchy and authority creates an environment where many officers are more inclined to protect the institution than the victim. "Look at Penn State," she said, "what happened there is just what happened in the Catholic Church and the U.S. Military."
Media Resources: The Daily Beast 7/16/12; Think Progress 7/16/12; AP 7/16/12; Protect Our Defenders Press Release 7/11/12
12/12/2013 Feminist Majority Celebrates Introduction of Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) - WASHINGTON -- Feminist Majority today celebrates and applauds Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) for introducing the critically-needed paid family medical leave legislation.
The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) will allow workers to take paid time off to address a serious illness of their own, a spouse, parent or child or to care for a new baby or adopted child. . . .
12/11/2013 Human Rights Day Celebrated Around The World - Yesterday marked International Human Rights Day, a day to celebrate human rights advances and to assess the challenges that lie ahead in protecting them.
"The fundamentals for protecting and promoting human rights are largely in place: these include a strong and growing body of international human rights law and standards, as well as institutions to interpret the laws, monitor compliance and apply them to new and emerging human rights issues," said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a statement. . . .
12/11/2013 UConn Under Federal Investigation For Mishandling Sexual Assault Cases - The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) informed the University of Connecticut on Monday that it will investigate the school for allegedly mishandling sexual assault cases and violating Title IX, the federal law that requires all recipients of federal financial assistance for education programs and activities to prohibit sex discrimination and sexual harassment [PDF].
The investigation was sparked after seven women filed a formal complaint in October alleging that UConn had failed to protect them from sexual assault and exposed them to a sexually hostile environment.One woman says her attacker was expelled from campus but later readmitted without her knowledge. . . .