As a child I'd always wanted to serve my country so joining the U.S. Coast Guard was a dream come true, I loved the discipline, the camaraderie and helping others. There was just one problem —my supervisor. From the moment I came under his charge, he singled me out for abuse and harassment. My appeals to his superiors fell on deaf ears, and one night he entered my room, hit me so hard he dislocated my jaw, and then raped me.
When I stumbled out from my bunkroom to report the incident, I was told by my commander (a close friend of my assailant) that I was a liar and a "disrespectful non-rate." Five years since the incident, I am no longer in the coast guard and my jaw still has not received surgery while my assailant continues to enjoy a successful military career.
The real horror though is that my story is not unique. I am one one of hundreds of thousands of men and women who've been raped by fellow soldiers while serving their country and then disbelieved and exiled. All too often, we are punished for reporting, and eventually, despite laudable careers, discharged.
According to Department of Defense estimates, over 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2010 alone. Over the past 5 decades, more than 500,000 U.S. Soldiers have been assaulted.
Even worse, unlike the civilian world where rape victims can turn to an impartial police force and justice system for help, in the military, rape victims can only appeal to their command—a move that is all too often met with foot-dragging at best, and harsh reprisals at worse. As a result, only eight percent of military sexual assault cases are prosecuted, and far less result in significant prison time.
We, as a society, can no longer allow this criminal epidemic to continue unabated. We are losing too many good soldiers to an unjust system.
Bills have now been introduced that would provide justice for sexual assault survivors currently serving in the U.S. Military, and would help alleviate the suffering of veterans who were sexually assaulted. In order for these bills to become law, they must pass a vote by specific committees prior to going to the full House or Senate for a final vote. Unfortunately most bills never get out of committee. Please join us in asking the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard “Buck” McKeon and the Chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, Carl Levin to support H.R. 3435, The STOP Act, and H.R. 1517, The Holley Lynn James Act.
We also ask Representative Jeff Miller and Senator Patty Murray who chair the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs respectively, to support H.R. 930, a bill that would make getting disability for military sexual assault-related condition from the Veterans Administration much easier.
Your overwhelming support of this legislature will send a clear message to the Department of Defense that it needs to take immediate measures to take the decision to investigate and prosecute rape crimes out of the hands of commanders, and provide access to disability for military sexual-assault survivors.
Thanks for caring,
To find out even more about military sexual assault, Kori's story, and what you can do to help, go to: www.invisiblewarmovie.com and sign up to get involved.