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SWAN Executive Director Anu Bhagwati opens the conference
SWAN Executive Director Anu Bhagwati opens the conference
Today, Service Women's Action Network is holding their "Truth and Justice Summit," the first-ever mass convening of survivors of military sexual assault on the nation's capitol. The schedule inclues a panel of survivors sharing their stories with attendees and the press. There will be an awards luncheon, advocacy training and visits to congressional offices. The aim of the congressional outreach, from SWAN policy director Greg Jacob:
We are asking that Congress educate themselves more on issues of sexual assault and harassment in the military and that they become vocal leaders in holding the military accountable for stopping rape in the ranks.

This is an issue that affects men and women service-wide. The reforms and improvements made thus far have been spearheaded by a relatively small group of legislators, most of them being on the Armed Services committee. It is critical that Congress understand that the issue of military sexual violence affects everyone, including veterans and families in their districts that might not have a military presence.

The timing of the conference is set to coincidence with the mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act. Though the Pentagon recently initiated some administrative changes which were greeted favorably by advocates, there is still much work to do, as the latest Department of Defense report detailed. The annual NDAA is the ideal vehicle for Congress to hold the military accountable. More on this conference and its aims here.

Elizabeth Luras of Portland, OR and Amy Dickinson, of Fresno, CA are among the 220 attendees.
Elizabeth Luras of Portland, OR and Amy Dickenson, of Fresno, CA are among the 220 attendees.
My conversation with them will be posted later today.
In the opening remarks, Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps captain who is executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, or S.W.A.N. convened 220 survivors of military sexual assault from 27 states. Eighty-five were attending through the help of SWAN. Later this afternoon they will be dispatched to Capitol Hill to meet with their representatives.
Rep. Bruce Braley, with an attendee, holding an award from SWAN for his work
Rep. Bruce Braley, with an attendee, holding an award from SWAN for his work
In attendance, Congressman Bruce Braley (D-IA), who began his remarks by saying, "If you want to know who I am, I'm the pissed off congressman from Iowa." Discussing his work within the military chain of command on this issue, Braley said:
"They have the audacity to talk about zero-tolerance policy on sex-assault on the military, when they are not even close."
Rep. Pingree with SWAN political director Greg Jacob
Rep. Pingree with SWAN political director Greg Jacob
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) said today's lobbying action will be a tremendous help to her work adding measures to the National Defense Authorization Act, which will be marked up on Wednesday.

Senator Amy Klobuchar discussed her work in the Senate on a bill requiring military to maintain records of assault incidents for 50 years (rather than the previous standard of a mere 18 months). Referencing the quick work of rounding of the 17 female senators, "That's why we need a few more women in the Senate."

I'm grateful to have been invited to witness this day, more updates to be posted throughout the day. Pictures may be used with credit. The event can be followed on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #truthandjustice.

3:37 PM PT: Read part 2 here.

Read part 3 here.

Read part 4 here.

Originally posted to Military Community Members of Daily Kos on Tue May 08, 2012 at 06:02 AM PDT.

Also republished by House of LIGHTS and Rape and Domestic Violence.

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