Military Rape Speech #16 Congresswoman Jackie Speier.mp4
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Published on Mar 7, 2012
Mr. Speaker, I rise again this morning to highlight the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the military. I'm here to decry a code of dishonor that protects rapists and punishes victims. I'm here to call out an entrenched chain of command that squashes reports of sexual assault because they bring unwanted attention to the unit. I stand here today as I have 15 previous times to tell the story of a U.S. service member who was raped by a fellow service member and then robbed of justice by an unfair system that puts too much power in the hands of a single commander. The current system of injustice is shamefully unfair. The story I'm about to tell is of Airman First Class Jessica Nicole Hinves of the United States Air Force whose attempt for justice was snatched away by a single commander who was only on the job for four days and reversed a decision to move forward with a court martial.
The Department of Defense estimates that more than 19,000 service members were raped or sexual assaulted in 2010. yet, only 13% of them actually reported the rape, and of those 13%, only 8% of the perpetrators were prosecuted and an even smaller number were convicted. Airman First Class Jessica Nicole Hinves was raped in 2009 by a co-worker who broke into her room through the bathroom at approximately 3:00 a.m. she sought medical care and bravely reported the rape. Friends of the rapist began harassing her. but she was not intimidated. A rapist was scheduled to stand trial in this court martial. But the airman who raped her was never prosecuted. His new commander intervened and halted the court martial.
The new commander had only been on the job for four days and had no legal training, but still dismissed the prosecution and the man who raped Airman Hinves was never brought to justice. Only four days on the job and the new commander intervened the judicial proceedings.
So what happened next? Well, the rapist was given the award for Airman of the Quarter and Airman Hinves, who was then transferred to another base, now suffers from severe panic attacks and anxiety.
Who can blame a victim for not wanting to report a rape or other humiliating assault? The current process for adjudicating sexual assault and rape in the military is shockingly unjust. It is more likely to punish a victim than a perpetrator. Airman Hinves was a victim of a violent crime. In response she did everything right, but one commander's decision stood in the way of a fair proceeding against the perpetrator.
In the current military chain of command, commanders can issue any punishment or any this case the rapist was not punished -- punished at all because the commander has complete authority and discretion of how a degrading and violent assault under their command is handled. If it goes forward to court martial, the same commander is in power to determine which JAG officer will serve as prosecutor, which will serve as defense counsel, who oversees the investigation and even serve as convening authority and in nonjudicial cases determine disciplinary action. All these functions are given to the discretion of one person.
Simply put, command discretion sets up a dynamic fraught with conflict of interest and potential abuse of power. This chain of command must be disrupted. We can no longer accept that victims of rape and abuse are beholden to the judgment of a single superior. Instead, victims should have the benefit of impartiality by objective -- impartiality by objective experts which is what the STOP Act does. It would have the reporting, oversight, investigation and victim care of sexual assaults out of the hands of the normal chain of command and place the jurisdiction in the hands of an impartial office, staffed by experts, both military and civilian, by retain it in the military. I will continue to tell stories like hers until this broken system is fixed. I promise to continue to speak out for those who have been victims of sexual assault or rape in the military. I urge you to write me at stopmilitaryrape at mail.house.gov.
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