The Air Education and Training Command (AETC), those people that oversee all training in the Air Force, posted an article on line yesterday:
6/27/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Sexual assault is a crime that degrades values, disrupts readiness, undermines goodwill and forever changes the lives of victims and their families.Although the article isn't written in direct response to the news out of Lackland AFB that 6 basic training instructors have been charged with sexual misconduct, including incidences of sexual assault and rape, the timing is just too precise for it to be a coincidence.
This article repeats the same jargon that has come out of military circles for a while - it's safe to report; there are ways to report so your commander doesn't have to know (while preventing a criminal investigation); and that it is up to the person being raped to protect themselves after the fact:
"The first step for any victim of sexual assault is to find safety," Burnett said. "Go to a safe location, away from the perpetrator and seek medical attention as soon as possible."It's time for the military to step up to the plate and take definite steps to stopping predators in the first place. This isn't only about teaching men and women how to avoid rape, it's about identifying predators in the first place and running a command structure that does not allow for sexual harassment in any way, shape, or form.
Help convince the military command structure to take a positive step in the right direction - a downward directed command to see The Invisible War would be a good start. Don't know about The Invisible War? Take a look at my impressions of the movie, The Military Didn't Help Them.
Then, sign this petition to the Obama Administration asking for action by the Department of Defense:
We believe that the Department of Defense should make the film, The Invisible War, required viewing for all future commanders as well as for military personnel who train incoming recruits.Please sign and petition and share the link widely.
The current policy of Zero Tolerance is not backed by a realistic training program. This award winning film explains sexual predation in a clear and compelling manner, leaving the viewer with an honest explanation of the problems facing our US service members. Using the DoD's own numbers, the film makes a direct connection between incapable Commanders and incidents of rape. It is time for those taking on the responsibility of command and of those training our new recruits to understand what they are up against. This film is a perfect tool to begin the process.
For those that are having problems signing up on WhiteHouse.gov, I have a suggestion. When you receive your confirmation email (up to 20 minutes after signing up for the site), please log in and change your password. Then log out. Log back in with the new password and you should be ready for action. If not, they have a new complaint process set up - use it!
At 150 signatures, the petition will show up in the WhiteHouse.gov search engine. We're currently at 60 as of 8AM Eastern this morning. Not bad for one day's work! Collecting signatures is an exponential process and it means sharing the link for multiple days until people finally decide that they really need to look and start sharing the link themselves. You can help me by posting the link in interesting places - like on George Takai's page or OccupyMarines' page on Facebook or with specific people or groups on Twitter or Facebook, especially your local Democratic Party or other progressive organization. This isn't a political issue but progressives are more likely to support the additional training and to recognize that the problem isn't avoiding rape, it's about making it impossible for sexual predators to take action in the first place.
I've seen no updates on Lackland this morning but the yesterday's most recent report from CNN had this that I want to share:
The commander of Air Force training has named two-star Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward to lead a two-month inquiry, covering all four Air Force bases that handle basic training, which are located in Texas and Mississippi.
At Lackland, near San Antonio, one trainer has pleaded guilty to having an improper relationship with a trainee, as part of a plea agreement.
Staff Sgt. Peter Vega-Maldonado has been sentenced to 90 days in prison, 30 days hard labor and a demotion in rank and pay. In his plea deal, he also provided testimony against two other trainers who have been charged. He also said he had inappropriate relationships with 10 trainees.
The most serious charges against an instructor are the 28 counts, including rape and sexual assault, alleged against Staff Sgt. Luis Walker. His trial is set to begin July 16, and he has pleaded not guilty.
For those that think it is easy to report rape, sexual assault, or even sexual harassment, think otherwise, especially for trainees in the military:
"The basic training environment in particular is honestly a target-rich environment for sexual predators," says Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine now with the Service Women's Action Network. She said a young recruit undergoing boot camp could be particularly vulnerable and have difficulty seeking help if misconduct occurs.The few military officers that have seen the award winning film, The Invisible War, feel as if it changed their perceptions on zero tolerance. These are honest folks who walked in thinking one particular way and walked out with a different vision of how we can change the system. It will take more than a few - we need this film widely distributed among our trainers and future commanders. Sign the petition and share widely, please.
"You're broken down and then built back up. The interaction you have with your instructors is so intimate and so frightening," she said. "You have that relationship which is based on fear and intimidation. If that's the person you're asking help from, it becomes a very bizarre scenario."
During the Lackland proceedings, one cadet said of the military training instructors, "You don't say no to them."
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