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House Armed Services Committee Hold Congressional Hearing on Lakeland Sex Abuse Investigation

Women Veterans’ Organization Encouraged, But Calls for More Steps

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By: Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN)

WASHINGTON, D.C. Jan. 23, 2013 - Today the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on widespread sexual misconduct at Lackland Air Force Base, site of Air Force Basic Training in the United States. In one of the largest sex abuse scandals the U.S. military has ever seen, 59 victims and 32 instructors are currently part of the investigation. Air Force veterans Chief Master Sergeant Cindy McNally (ret) and former Technical Sergeant Jennifer Norris offered personal testimony to the full Committee, speaking to the structural problems and deficits in the military for addressing sexual violence.

"To me, the sexual assault cases at Lackland demonstrate what happens when leadership fails," said Chief Master Sergeant Cindy McNally in her testimony. "Basic training is where our sons and daughters are their most vulnerable. The power Military Training Instructors have over these airmen is perceived as absolute…Consent does not exist in a basic training environment."

Service Women's Action Network, a women veterans' organization based in New York City and Washington, D.C., attended the hearing along with the veterans.

"We're encouraged that Chairman McKeon and the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the investigation of one of the worst public sexual assault scandals in U.S. military history, and especially proud of our courageous veterans who gave testimony," said Anu Bhagwati, Executive Director of Service Women's Action Network and former Marine Corps Captain.

"Going forward, we would like to see congressional and military leadership step outside the box and take steps to create a sea change in military culture, and the treatment of women in particular. Inside the military, there are still few deterrents to sexual predators and harassers. We need a multi-pronged approach to ending this systematic dysfunction within the military by ending legalized discrimination against service women, moving sexual assault case disposition away from military commanders and into the hands of impartial military prosecutors, and opening up civil courts to service members so that the criminal justice system is not their last hope for justice."

SWAN is a national nonpartisan civil rights organization founded and led by women veterans. SWAN's mission is to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform without discrimination, harassment or assault; and to reform veterans' services to ensure high quality health care and benefits for women veterans and their families. You can follow Service Women's Action Network on Twitter at http://twitter.com/servicewomen, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/servicewomen

 

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