United States

How Much Must Women Sacrifice to Serve? (HuffPo)

11/12/2012 -- Huffington Post -- "How Much Must Women Sacrifice to Serve?" New York Office Director Lauren Hersh on sexual assault in the military.

Military sexual assault survivors face major obstacles in accessing support services

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 3, 2012
Contacts:  Equality Now: Kristen Berg, 212-586-0906, kberg@equalitynow.org
                  SWAN: Katy Otto, 240-478-9387, katy@servicewomen.org

United States: Sexual assault of women in the military must be stopped

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 Oct 2
Update Date: 
2013 Feb 13
Update: 

10 MAY 2016 UPDATE:  On 5 May, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its 2015 Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, and the results are alarming:  Military Services received  6,083 reports of sexual assault involving service members as either victims or subjects in 2015. 4,736 service members reported being raped or sexually assaulted while in the military. However, it is almost certain that these numbers don’t represent the whole picture as sexual assaults in the military are vastly underreported. A 2014 DoD commissioned study estimated that 20,300 active-duty service members were sexually assaulted in that year alone.

And victims who do report rarely see their abusers punished. Only 7% of perpetrators received courts-martial or discharge in 2015, and 2012 and 2014 studies found that 62% of service member victims of sexual assault report retaliation after reporting the crime. Another recently released study noted 91 reports of sexual assault in military service academies in 2015, underscoring the fact that attacks are not confined to war zones.

The Pentagon has always insisted that it takes a zero tolerance approach to sexual assault in the military, but this is clearly untrue. In April 2016, an Associated Press investigation shockingly found that the 
Pentagon used “inaccurate or vague information” to convince Congress not to pass a law which would give more power to civilian courts to handle military cases. It also found that the military used misleading or incomplete information in about 93 sexual assault cases.

We welcome the Department of Defense’s new Strategy to prevent retaliation associated with reporting sexual assault or harassment as an important step, but it is not enough. The 
bill in question, supported by Equality Now and our partner, the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), was introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in 2013 and died twice on the Senate floor. Now we are calling for it to be incorporated into this year’s upcoming National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 in order to pass.

Senator Gillibrand’s bill would provide the structural changes needed to ensure meaningful access to justice for survivors, removing the power to prosecute sexual assault from military commanders and transferring it to professional prosecutors.
 
Please join us by Taking Action today!

For more information, read our Sexual Assault in the Military Fact sheet


20 AUGUST 2013 UPDATE: Recent developments indicate some Congressional and military momentum to address sexual assault in the military:

On 15 August, the US Department of Defense (DOD) gave an update on sexual assault prevention and response measures, during which Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s seven new initiatives to “strengthen and standardize the department’s sexual assault prevention and response effort” were outlined. Though Equality Now welcomes the DOD’s acknowledgment of the seriousness of the issue, the initiatives do not make the structural changes needed for violence to be prevented and for victims to access justice. As our partner SWAN stated, “small-scale military sexual assault solutions will not stem the cultural tide created by years of victim blaming and retaliation." Therefore we will continue to advocate for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) which would professionalize the military justice system and bring much needed justice to victims of sexual assault. Senator Gillibrand will be calling for a full Senate floor vote on the MJIA bill following the August Congressional recess. If you are in the US, please ask your Senator to support passage of this bill.

We are also encouraged by the House of Representatives’ passage in July of two amendments in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 (HR 2397), offered by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), relating to the handling of sexual assault cases. This follows a recent report by the DOD Inspector General who found serious failures in the handling of military sexual assault investigations. Out of 501 investigations, 418 had “deficiencies” which compromised the victim’s chance of obtaining justice, and, overall, 399 of these cases had interview and post-interview deficiencies. Weaknesses were found in the interview process, collection of evidence, lead development and crime scene photography. The amendments address the pervasive misuse of ‘personality and adjustment disorder’ as a diagnosis of victims of sexual assault and provide additional funding to train investigators of sexual assault crimes. We hope the Senate will also show bi-partisan support for those that have suffered sexual assault in the US military by passing this bill.


24 MAY 2013 UPDATE: On 7 May, the US Department of Defense released their 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.  The report plainly showed that efforts to combat sexual assault in the military are not having the desired effect, and in fact, sexual violence and the culture of impunity are getting worse. Shockingly, the number of reported sexual assaults rose in every branch of the military with a 35% increase overall since 2010, from 19,300 service members in 2010 to 26,000 in 2012. Coming on the heels of the arrest for sexual battery of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the officer in charge of US Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, and followed by revelations that two other US Army sexual assault prevention officers were accused of sex crimes, including an allegation linking one to a prostitution ring, it is abundantly clear that current efforts to address sexual assault in the US military are not being taken seriously.

Therefore, Equality Now welcomed the 16 May introduction of the
Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013 by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a bi-partisan bill which would remove the power to prosecute sexual assault from military commanders and transfer it to professional prosecutors. Equality Now and our partner SWAN (Service Women’s Action Network) have been consistently advocating for this reform and will be following the bill closely as it moves through the legislative process to ensure that sexual assault victims have access to justice in the military.


13 FEBRUARY 2013 UPDATE: Senator Jon Tester and Representative Chellie Pingree introduced the “Ruth Moore Act of 2013.” Named in recognition of Navy veteran, military sexual assault survivor and activist Ruth Moore (subject of our Action), the bill would lower the evidentiary burden needed to prove service-related PTSD for survivors so that they can receive benefits and necessary services from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The passage of this bill would fulfill one of the three objectives of Equality Now's campaign, and we will be following this process closely as it progresses.


 

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What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

Please join Equality Now and our partner SWAN in calling on:


The Secretary of Defense and the House & Senate Armed Services Committee Chairs to:
  • Reform the military justice system so that professional military prosecutors – not the perpetrator’s command – are responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual assault. Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada, have recently reformed their military justice systems in this manner so that commanders do not wield undue (and unmonitored) influence over sexual assault cases.

 Send letters to:

The Hon. Ashton B. Carter
Secretary of Defense
Office of the Sec. of Defense
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Tel: +1(703) 571-3343
Fax: +1(703) 571-8951
Email: ashton.carter@osd.mil

Congressman Mac Thornberry
House Armed Service Committee Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2208 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: +1(202) 225-3706
Fax: +1(202) 225-3486
Facebook: www.facebook.com/repmacthornberry
Twitter: @MacTXPress

Senator John McCain
Senate Armed Service Committee Chair
U.S. Senate
218 Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: +1(202) 224-2235
Fax: +1(202) 228-2862
Facebook: www.facebook.com/johnmccain
Twitter: @SenJohnMcCain

The Secretary of Defense, the House & Senate Armed Services Committee Chairs, and the House & Senate Judiciary Committee Chairs to:

  • Allow survivors of sexual assault in the military to access civil remedies so that they, like civilians, can hold their employer – the U.S. military – accountable for sexual harassment and assault.

 Send letters to:

The Honorable Ashton B. Carter, Congressman Mac Thornberry, Senator John McCain (contacts listed above)

Senator Chuck Grassley
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair
U.S. Senate
135 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-3744
Fax: 202-224-6020
Facebook: www.facebook.com/grassley
Twitter: @ChuckGrassley

Congressman Bob Goodlatte
House Judiciary Committee Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2309 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: 202-225-5431
Fax: 202-225-9681
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BobGoodlatte
Twitter: @RepGoodlatte

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the House & Senate Committee of Veterans’ Affairs Chairs to:

  • Provide survivors suffering from PTSD stemming from their sexual assault with the services they need to recover from their trauma by lowering the unnecessarily high evidentiary burden they face in order to prove their assault and access disability benefits.

 Send letters to:

The Hon. Robert A. McDonald
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: +1(800) 827-1000
Email:  robert.a.mcdonald@va.gov, Bob.mcdonald@va.gov

The Honorable Danny Pummill
Acting Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: 1.800.827.1000
Email: Danny.pummill@va.gov

Congressman Jeff Miller
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
336 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: +1(202) 225-4136
Fax: +1(202) 225-3414
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RepJeffMiller

Senator Johnny Isakson
Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chair
U.S. Senate
131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: +1(202) 224-3643
Fax: +1(202) 228-0724
Twitter: @SenatorIsakson

Letters: 

Letter Regarding Reform of the Justice System

Dear Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter:
 
I am deeply concerned about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and that service members who sexually harass and assault their fellow service women are doing so freely. At least 20,000 active-duty service members were sexually assaulted in 2014 and as few as one out of every 100 sexual assaults results in a conviction.
 
This low conviction rate is due to the multitude of obstacles rape survivors face in pursuing justice, including in reporting the crime, thorough and impartial investigations, and seeing rapists/assailants charged and punished. Since officers within the perpetrator’s chain-of-command are the ones investigating sexual assault complaints, conflicts of interest and abuses of power flourish, especially where  both the survivor and perpetrator are under the same officer’s command. And as these crimes reflect poorly on the unit, commanders have an incentive to downplay or cover-up sexual assaults.
 
The failure to protect service women from sexual assault while in the military, to ensure justice for survivors, and to enable survivors to obtain justice and services violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I urge you to reform the military justice system so that professional military prosecutors – not the perpetrator’s command – are responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual assault, along the lines of reforms the United Kingdom and Canada have recently implemented.
 

 

Sincerely,
 

cc:
Congressman Mac Thornberry, House Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator John McCain, Senate Armed Services Committee, Chair

Letter Regarding Civil Remedies

Dear Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter:
 
I am deeply concerned about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and those service members who sexually harass and assault their fellow service women are doing so freely. At least 20,000 active-duty service members were sexually assaulted in 2014 and as few as one out of every 100 sexual assaults results in a conviction.
 
This low conviction rate is due to the multitude of obstacles rape survivors face in pursuing justice, including in reporting the crime, thorough and impartial investigations, and seeing rapists/assailants charged and punished. Unlike civilians, military rape survivors have no way of holding their employer – the U.S. military – accountable through civil litigation for failing to protect them from sexual assault or harassment.
 
The failure to protect service women from sexual assault and to ensure justice for survivors violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
 
I strongly urge you to revise U.S. military policies so that service women can obtain justice for harassment and sexual violence.  It is vital that allow survivors are able to access civil remedies so that they, like civilians, can hold their employer accountable.

 

Sincerely,
 

cc:
Congressman Mac Thornberry, House Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator John McCain, Senate Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator Chuck Grassley, Senate Judiciary Committee, Chair
Congressman Bob Goodlatte, House Judiciary Committee, Chair

Letter to Veterans' Affairs

Robert A. McDonald
Secretary of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Dear Secretary McDonald:
 
I am deeply concerned about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and the many obstacles sexual assault survivors face in accessing the services they need to recover -- at least 20,000 active-duty service members were sexually assaulted in 2014 alone!
 
Sexual assault and harassment causes the same rates of PTSD in women veterans as combat does in men, but sexual assault survivors continue to face challenges in accessing disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA often disbelieve survivors’ accounts of assault – even when backed up by a physician’s report – and require evidence from other corroborating sources. Tellingly, only 32% of sexual assault PTSD claims are approved by the VA, while 54% of overall PTSD claims are approved.
 
Servicewomen are being re-victimized by this disbelief and failure to provide much needed services. The VA must lower the evidentiary burden and accept survivor’s testimony alone as proof that a sexual assault occurred. The failure to protect service women from sexual assault and to ensure justice and services for survivors violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
 
I strongly urge you to revise your policy so that survivors suffering from sexual assault-related PTSD receive the services they need without delays, and to lower the unnecessarily high evidentiary burdens they face.
 

Yours sincerely,

cc: 
The Honorable Danny Pummill, Acting Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs
Senator Johnny Isakson, Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Chair
Congressman Jeff Miller, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Chair

United States: Call for zero tolerance on demand that fuels sex trafficking

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 May 1

view as pdf

What You Can Do: 

Call on U.S. President Barack Obama to issue an Executive Order prohibiting all federal employees and contractors from buying sex as it contributes to sex trafficking, and to ensure that all agency heads strictly enforce such a zero tolerance policy. Doing so would help ensure the United States lives up to its national and international commitments to curb the demand that fuels sex trafficking. >> TAKE ACTION NOW!

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
United States of America
Fax: + 1 202-456-2461
E-mail: president@whitehouse.gov

Letters: 

Dear President Obama:

Following the recent “scandal” involving Secret Service agents and military members traveling on official business buying sex from women in prostitution in Cartagena, Colombia and similar reported incidents worldwide, I am writing to request that the U.S. government act now to end commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. I urge you to issue an Executive Order prohibiting all federal employees and contractors from buying sex as it contributes to sex trafficking, and to ensure all agency heads strictly enforce such a zero tolerance policy.

Demand for commercial sex fuels sex trafficking and exploitation. Millions of women and girls are sold and bought for sexual exploitation in violation of their rights to bodily integrity, equality, dignity, health, and to be free from violence and torture. As part of efforts to prevent sex trafficking, the U.S. government is bound by national and international laws and policies to reduce the demand for commercial sex. In addition, the U.S. anti-trafficking ambassador has made clear that reducing demand is an integral part of the fight to end sex trafficking. Yet, there is no consistent policy on sex trafficking and purchasing sex that covers the conduct of all government employees and contractors.

I respectfully urge the U.S. government to adopt a zero tolerance policy on the demand for commercial sex that fuels sex trafficking. Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,
 

Anti-Trafficking Consultant Kenneth Franzblau on the effects of "online pimping" (Huffington Post)

1/19/12 -- Huffington Post -- "Escort Ads, Sex Slaves and Four Dead Women" Equality Now Anti-Trafficking Consultant Kenneth Franzblau comments on the effects of "online pimping."

Equality Now calls on the United States Senate & House of Representatives to Pass the Girls Protection Act

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2011 Dec 12

In May 2010, Equality Now issued an urgent alert calling on the United States House of Representatives to pass the “Girls Protection Act” (H.R. 5137) co-sponsored by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA). The legislation aimed at strengthening the 1996 federal law banning female genital mutilation (FGM) and would prohibit the act of transporting a girl abroad in order to subject her to FGM. However, this Act did not pass in Congress last year. It was reintroduced by Rep. Crowley and Rep.

What You Can Do: 

We urge both the United States House of Representatives and Senate to take this critical step toward reaffirming that FGM, in all its forms, is a human rights violation. We also urge that culturally sensitive awareness-raising, education and outreach programs are put in place to protect girls living in the US from FGM. In this regard, Equality Now urges its Women’s Action Network members in the United States to call upon their members of Congress and Senators to cosponsor the pending legislation in both the House and Senate.

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Click here to find your Senators’ contact information. Click here to find your Congressperson’s contact information.

Please keep Equality Now updated on your work and send copies of any replies you receive to: info@equalitynow.org

Letters: 

Dear Senator:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the common situation where girls are taken from the U.S. to their parents’ countries of origin to be subjected to Female Genital Mutilation. FGM is considered a severe human rights violation and the World Health Organization classifies the practice as a reflection of deep rooted inequality between the sexes and an extreme form of discrimination against women.

The WHO estimates that between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM, which takes place throughout Africa, certain countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as in locations where FGM-practicing immigrants reside, such as the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. According to an analysis of 2000 U.S. census data conducted by the African Women’s Health Center (AWHC) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, approximately 228,000 women and girls have undergone or are at risk for FGM. The data also states that from 1990 to 2000, the number of women who are at risk for FGM grew by approximately 35 percent in this country. A 1996 federal law prohibiting the practice of FGM within the US did not address the risk of girls removed from the country, sometimes to their parents’ countries of origin, to be subjected to FGM.

I am aware that new legislation, the “Girls Protection Act of 2011” (S. 1919) introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) aims to close this loophole and strengthen the 1996 federal law. This legislation would make it illegal to transport a minor girl living in the US out of the country for purposes of FGM. As my United States Senator, I urge you to cosponsor S. 1919 and take this critical step toward reaffirming that FGM, in all its forms, is a human rights violation. I also urge you to support the implementation of culturally sensitive awareness-raising, education and outreach programs to protect girls living in the US from FGM.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely

Dear Congressperson:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the common situation where girls are taken to their countries of origin to be subjected to Female Genital Mutilation. FGM is considered a severe human rights violation and the World Health Organization classifies the practice as a reflection of deep rooted inequality between the sexes and an extreme form of discrimination against women.

The WHO estimates that between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM, which takes place throughout Africa, certain countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as in locations where FGM-practicing immigrants reside, such as the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. According to an analysis of 2000 U.S. census data conducted by the African Women’s Health Center (AWHC) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, approximately 228,000 women and girls have undergone or are at risk for FGM. The data also states that from 1990 to 2000, the number of women who are at risk for FGM grew by approximately 35 percent in this country. A 1996 federal law prohibiting the practice of FGM within the US did not address the risk of girls removed from the country, sometimes to their parents’ countries of origin, to be subjected to FGM.

I am aware that the “Girls Protection Act” (HR 2221) co-sponsored by Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) aims to close this loophole and strengthen the 1996 federal law. The Crowley-Bono Mack extraterritoriality amendment or “vacation provision” would make it illegal to transport a minor girl living in the US out of the country for purposes of FGM. As my representative, I urge you cosponsor H.R. 2221 and take this critical step toward reaffirming that FGM, in all its forms, is a human rights violation. I also urge you to support the implementation of culturally sensitive awareness-raising, education and outreach programs to protect girls living in the US from FGM.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely

Girls in U.S. at Risk of Female Genital Mutilation will be Further Protected with Extraterritoriality Legislation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
29 November 2011
Contact:  WASHINGTON, DC:  Shelby Quast, 202-841-5630, squast@equalitynow.org
NEW YORK: Karen Asare, 212-586-0906, media@equalitynow.org
 

Urgent Alert: United States: Urge the U.S. House Of Representatives to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act before Congress adjourns

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 Dec 6

Equality Now commends the United States Senate on passage of The International Protecting Girls By Preventing Child Marriage Act Of 2009 and urges The U.S. House Of Representatives to pass this legislation

What You Can Do: 

As a part of efforts to curb child marriage, Equality Now urges its Women’s Action Network members in the U.S. to call upon their members of Congress to take urgent action to pass the legislation before Congress adjourns for the end of the year. Click here to find your Representative's contact information.

Letters: 

[add address of Congressperson]

Dear

I am writing to express my deep concern about the prevalence of child marriage in a number of countries around the world and the severe negative physical, emotional, psychological, educational and sexual implications of such marriage on girls, including death in some cases. 

Child marriages violate the human rights of girls by excluding them from decisions regarding the timing of marriage and choice of spouse.  Health-related impacts of early marriage and pregnancy according to the United Nations include higher risks of HIV infection, death in labor, septic abortion, still births, pregnancy-induced hypertension, puerperal sepsis and obstetric fistula.  Early marriage also jeopardizes girls’ right to formal education, which ends upon marriage.  Moreover, international research has shown that married girls have few social connections, restricted mobility, limited control over resources and little or no power in their new households, and that domestic violence is common in child marriages.

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S. 987/H.R. 2103) authorizes U.S. foreign assistance programs to prevent child marriage and provide educational and economic opportunities for girls around the world.  The legislation has unanimously passed through the Senate.  I urge you, as a member of Congress, to ensure that the U.S. House of Representatives will pass the legislation before Congress adjourns for the end of the year.

Please take action on this issue so that efforts to eradicate child marriages, which undermine our government’s efforts to empower women around the world, can be expanded and girls around the world are given a better chance to realize their potential.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,
 

U.S. Members Urgent Alert: Equality Now calls on the U.S. Senate to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 Aug 10

In November 2009, Equality Now issued an urgent alert calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S. 987/H.R. 2103) (the “Act”). Major provisions of the Act were included in the State Department Reauthorization Bill which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2009. The Act has garnered a great deal of support in the Senate and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and we are hopeful that the legislation will be passed into law this year.

What You Can Do: 

As a part of efforts to curb child marriage, Equality Now urges its Women’s Action Network members in the U.S. to call upon their U.S. Senators to cosponsor the Act (S. 987/H.R.2103) and urge members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ensure that the Act is taken up by the Committee in September. Click here to find your Senators’ contact information. TAKE ACTION!

Sample letter

 

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