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Senator Kay Hagan meets with constituents Wednesday morning during a reception in her new Asheville office at 82 Patton Avenue downtown. &nbsp; &nbsp;Steve Dixon 4/07/10
Senator Kay Hagan (D. NC) was on Hardball with Chris Matthews recently to discuss sexual assault in the military


The Pentagon released an alarming report this week showing sexual assault in the military is on the rise, raising the question: are the country’s armed services capable of policing their own ranks?

Currently, senior officers have the power to decide whether court-martial charges can be brought against subordinates. They also have the option to throw out a verdict once it’s rendered.

“It is a real travesty,” North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan told Hardball’s Chris Matthews about the report, arguing there’s too much stigma attached to reporting an assault to a commanding officer.

According to the Pentagon, the number of reported assaults in the fiscal year of 2012 rose 6% to 3,374–up from 3,192 the year before. And for active duty women, the prevalence of unwanted sexual contact (not complaints) increased about one-third from about 4.4% to 6.1% (to 26,000) over the course of two years.

Hagan, a Democrat, urged for an independent review board to oversee the cases in addition to creating a special sexual assault unit that mimics civilian criminal cases. “I don’t think that it’s a good idea at all that the commanding officer can actually throw out a jury verdict of somebody who has been convicted at a jury trial of serious sexual assault,” she said.

MSNBC contributor Goldie Taylor recounted her own experience as a former Marine 26 years ago, and how a friend in her unit was raped by an army ranger. Her friend reported the attack to a commanding officer. “Not only was this man never charged, but she was sent to a psychological unit. She was given lie detector tests and finally, her career was ended. She was absolutely humiliated.”

“The very idea that this is something that should be adjudicated in the command structure is ludicrous,” Taylor said. “I don’t trust the military can police itself on a subject like this.” - MSNBC, 5/9/13

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Hagan recently attended a meeting at the White House to discuss ways to prevent military sexual assault.  She was accompanied be fellow committee member, Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D. NY):


Hagan and Gillibrand are both members of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, which held a hearing this week in the wake of two new reports about a rise in sexual assaults in the military, and revelations that the Air Force officer in charge of preventing sexual assaults was arrested for groping a woman outside a Virginia bar over the weekend.

That arrest, said Gillibrand demonstrated "a failing in training and understanding of what sexual assault is and how corrosive and damaging it is to good order and discipline and how it's undermining the credibility of the greatest military force in the world."

She said the military's efforts so far were "not good enough."

A new Pentagon report estimated there were 26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact in the military last year, based on anonymous surveys, up from 19,000 two years ago.

A separate report said only 3,300 cases of sexual assault were reported to the military.

Gillibrand's efforts have gotten support from editorial boards, including the New York Times and, this morning, the Los Angeles Times, and from Obama.

“The bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this,” Obama told reporters on Tuesday when asked about the rise in sexual assaults. - Capital New York, 5/9/13

After the meeting, Hagan had this to say:


Jan 27, 2009 - Washington, DC, United States - Sen. KAY R. HAGAN &nbsp;(Newscom TagID: zumawirewestphotos815374) &nbsp; &nbsp; [Photo via Newscom]
After the meeting, Hagan issued a statement saying: "I have heard first-hand from service members in North Carolina about the military sexual assault crisis in our armed forces, and today I spoke with some of the president’s top advisors about concrete steps we can take to address this problem.''

“It is appalling and unacceptable that an estimated 26,000 incidents of sexual assault took place in our military last year and even more alarming that so few victims actually reported them. Our servicemen and women should not have to worry about their personal safety on bases in the U.S. and around the world while they are bravely serving to protect our nation’s safety.” - Charlotte News Observer, 5/9/13

And to make matters worse, the sequester isn't helping stop sexual assaults in the military:


The secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff have told senators that sequestration could hurt efforts to deal with sexual assaults within their branch of the military.

In a written statement submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 23, Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said the across-the-board budget cuts mandated as part of the sequester could hurt their Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program “from slowing hiring actions, to delaying lab results which hinders our ability to provide resolution for victims.”

A Defense Department study released Tuesday showed there were 3,374 reports of sexual assault made in 2012, and DOD estimated a total of 26,000 instances of unwanted sexual contact occurred.

The Army has had the highest rate of victims reporting sexual assault compared to active duty military service among the five branches, at least since 2007.

In their oral testimony in April, the Army leaders stressed the importance of working with soldiers from their first days in the service through the rest of their military careers to ensure they see sexual harassment and assault as serious problems.

“It is just about constantly talking about this problem and constantly ensuring that people understand we are going to take this seriously. And it’s as frustrating to all of us, I know, as it is to you, senator,” Gen. Odierno told Senator Kay Hagan. “I wish I had a better answer for you frankly.”

The statement from April said the Army planned to add 829 full-time military and civilian sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates to combat the problem within the branch.

Wednesday the Army Secretary told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Army faces $7.6 billion in sequestration cuts between April and September. Gen. Odierno said that in part has left them with a $13-billion budget shortfall and requested Congress delay the cuts for the Army for “later years.” - ABC News, 5/10/13

If this isn't evidence how bad the sequester has affected the country, I don't know what is.  I thank Senator Hagan for speaking out on this issue.  Now lets put an end to this sequester nonsense.

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Originally posted to pdc on Fri May 10, 2013 at 03:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by North Carolina BLUE, DKos Military Veterans, Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, and Military Community Members of Daily Kos.

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