Military Rape Speech 24 - 12-19-12 - It's time for all of us to speak up.
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Published on Dec 19, 2012
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo/San Francisco) spoke this morning about the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the military. She told the story of Air Force Technical Sergeant Jennifer Smith who is speaking out about the military's work environment that is hostile towards women.
The Congresswoman said, "It's time for all of us to expect from the military what we expect from the private sector, no hostile work environment."
The full text of the speech is below.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn to my prepared remarks for this morning. I'd like to read you some song lyrics that Air Force Technical Sergeant Jennifer Smith found on her government computer at Shaw Air Force base. The lyrics of the song are called, "The S & M Man," and they go like this:
"Who can take a machete, whack off all her limbs, throw her in the ocean, and watch her try to swim? The S & M Man."
Jennifer Smith reported this song and other sexually explicit documents to her superiors in the air force. The S & M Man is offensive, it's hostile, but to her male colleagues and superiors, the song is just tradition. A tradition that is alive and well, celebrated in song and patches, offensive pictures, and behavior, and the tacit approval of commanding officers. A military tradition of demeaning women is not only sickening but contrary to the fundamental principles of an institution founded in respect -- founded in respect and honor and in discipline, and it undermines our military's readiness and cohesion. Simply put, it gravely damages the military.
This is the 24th time that I have come to the Floor to share the story of a service member, either man or woman, who has been raped, sexually assaulted, or harassed by fellow service members. By the Department of Defense's own records and estimates, there are 19,000 rapes and sexual assaults each year in the military, and the VA reports that half a million veterans are affected by military sexual trauma. Still, less than 14% of these victims actually report the crimes.
And why is that? Because so few are prosecuted, less than 9%. and the minuscule number ends in conviction. Air Force Sergeant Jennifer Smith has been subjected to this culture for nearly two decades. She finally had enough. She filed a lawsuit, and in her lawsuit she chronicles 17 years, 17 years of abuse and a toxic culture. From 1995 until the present time. a culture that speaks of repulsive and destructive behavior by service members and the tacit approval of their commanders.
Jennifer Smith joined the air force 17 years ago when she was just 18 years of age. Her career has been filled with promotions, with medals, and commendations by her commanding officers. She is one of the soldiers that we so highly regard in the military. she has a record of astonishing accomplishments. In many of the commendations she has been told that she is, quote, a gifted mentor, quote, goes above and beyond, quote, promotes -- promote her now, exclamation point. Her career has also been filled with sexual harassment, assault, and complacency or worse from her commanding officers.
During her five deployments in Iraq, Kuwait, Korea, and Germany, Sergeant Smith has endured assault by a Master Sergeant who pushed her into a room, dropped his pants, and tried to force himself on her. Harassment by a Vice Commander who told her to relax and take her top off during a meeting. Constant exposure to pornographic material and sexually explicit flight songs, and an attempted rape she was too scared to report.
Sergeant smith had endured sexual harassment in a hostile work environment for 13 years when she decided to speak up.
It's time for all of us to speak up. It's time for all of us to expect from the military what we expect from the private sector, no hostile work environment.
I yield back.
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