Activist Wednesday: Kirsten Gillibrand Does it Again
Posted May 29, 2013on:
Our “junior” Senator from New York certainly is making a name for herself, bravely taking on issues that many Congresscritters won’t touch with a burning Ben Franklin. Her latest cause is exposing the culture of sexual assault in the military and by bringing it into the light, shame the patriarchal organization into doing something about it.
According to Senator Gillibrand, she saw the documentary, “The Invisible War,” which inspired her to use her new position as Chairwoman of the Armed Services Committee to give military rape victims a chance to testify before Congress about their horrible experiences.
Her first hearing as chairwoman, held March 13, included tearful testimony from three victims of sexual assault in the military. Like the documentary, they brought real-life faces to the problem. Senators who attended the hearing expressed bipartisan outrage and vowed to act.
A recent spate of scandals, including two cases in which officers assigned to lead efforts to prevent sexual assault are accused of sexual misconduct themselves, has led members of Congress to propose several legislative fixes.
Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., have multiple cosponsors for a proposal calling on each branch of the military to appoint a Special Victims’ Counsel for sexual-assault victims and to prohibit training instructors from any sexual contact with recruits within 30 days after their training is completed.
Gillibrand’s own proposal was unveiled recently with a bipartisan group of senators and House members joining her. Her legislation would change the Uniform Code of Military Justice by letting military prosecutors — rather than commanders — decide whether to prosecute sexual-assault cases and other offenses punishable by at least a year in prison.
Prosecutors would have discretion to file all assault charges, whether sexually motivated or not. Commanders would retain authority over the filing of cases involving rules exclusive to the military, such as disobeying an order or being absent without leave.
The calm tone of this article does not fully do justice to the injustice of the current system. First of all, if you are a victim of rape in the military, you have the choice of either reporting it to your commanding officer, or not reporting it. If your commanding officer is a) the person that committed the assault against you, or b) his/her drinking buddy, or c) a macho asshole who doesn’t give a f*ck, then guess what? He doesn’t have to do anything with it. That’s right, guys and gals – it’s up to him. That’s what Gillibrand’s legislation would fix, among other things.
And guess what else? Some Republican women are getting off their partisan behinds and supporting this legislation. It seems like the pathetic excuses given by some officers for the extreme prevalence of rape in the military, have roused them out of their Chamomile-induced stupor!
When Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the chief of staff of the Air Force, said that the problem was difficult to solve because young women in the military had been raised in a society with a “hook-up mentality,’’ Ms. Gillibrand lashed back, saying, “To dismiss violent rapes as part of the hook-up culture shows a complete lack of understanding. We’re not talking about a date gone badly. We’re talking about criminal behavior by predators who often stalk their victims in advance.”
Her outrage is fully shared by many other female lawmakers.
“This is an issue many of us have dealt with for years, and we find it unbelievably alarming that it is happening at the level it is in the military,” said Senator Kay Hagan, Democrat of North Carolina, one of the seven women in the Armed Services Committee, in a fund-raising message from Emily’s List.
Ms. Hagan and Senators Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington State, Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, and Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, have all taken a stand.
And the outrage is absolutely justified. Even if there were 10 victims a year, that would be too many; but n May 7, 2013, the Pentagon issued a shocking report: Last year, there were an estimated 26,000 rapes in the Armed Forces, the vast majority of which were suffered by women.
Let’s just think about that for a minute. Here we are, telling people that our military is the finest in the world. We just celebrated Memorial Day, giving thanks to those who served and gave their lives for this country. And yet, there is this dark secret that no one talks about, something we are supposed to sweep under the rug so the parades can go on, the story can remain simple, the women can remain savaged and silent.
Well I will tell you this: with women like Kirsten Gillibrand in Congress, our sisters will get the recognition and justice they deserve. No wonder the patriarchy wants to keep women out of Congress. They talk about the most awkward, uncomfortable things…and they tell truths that no one wants to admit.
Long may Senator Gillibrand wave…and let’s hope more and more women start waving with her.
This is an open thread.
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