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
7/27/2015 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Blocked Efforts to Defund Planned Parenthood - An attempt in the Senate to defund Planned Parenthood by Mike Lee (R-UT) was blocked this weekend by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Lee tried to attach the elimination of federal funds for Planned Parenthood to a vote for highway legislation, a move which was rejected by McConnell as out of order.
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7/24/2015 Katherine Spillar Urges Cleveland to Dramatically Increase Hiring of Women Police to Mitigate Police Violence - In a well-received speech at the City Club of Cleveland today, Katherine Spillar, Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation urged Cleveland city officials to dramatically increase the hiring of women police officers as a way to decrease police brutality incidents.
Following a number of high profile police killings in Cleveland of African Americans, and an eight-month investigation by the US Attorney's office of the Northern District of Ohio, the City of Cleveland has now entered into a Consent Decree that requires numerous reforms in how the city oversees and investigates police operations, including training in use of force.
"Among the most important reforms mandated by the consent decree - and the most easily overlooked - are the changes the Cleveland Division of Police must make in its recruitment and hiring practices,
said Spillar. . . .