House hears testimony on military sexual assault

Yesterday the House held a hearing on sexual assault in the military, a topic we’ve written on repeatedly. Not just the insanely and disturbingly high rates of sexual assault, but the effect is has on female vets.
Rep. Louise Slaughter reintroduced the Military Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Act, which would establish an Office of Victims Advocate within the Department of Defense and hopefully improve efforts to respond to cases of sexual violence and harassment in the military.
At the hearing, sexual assault survivor Ingrid Torres testified. What an incredibly brave woman:

“The road after sexual assault is a long and challenging one. As is typical of violent crime, I suffer from PTSD, violent nightmares, and depression. I still wake in the night, he still comes after me in my dreams… Because of the impending courts martial, I was advised not to talk openly about the case, which caused rumors and misconceptions to run rampant. There was no escaping it and no making it better. The hostility grew with my silence…Ultimately, our society still publicly and privately tries the victims in sexual assault cases. Rape is the only crime where the victim has to prove their innocence.”

RH Reality Check has more.
In other congressional news, yesterday the House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act. Bush has vowed to veto the legislation. Because he likes making $1 to your 76 cents, dammit.

Join the Conversation

  • laurajd

    It is so disheartening and sad to hear womens stories about how they were sexually assaulted while serving in the military. I, or many people look up to the military to protect us all, but instead they destroy women’s lives. I am a supporter of the soldier’s during these complete unnecessary wars, but this just ruins my faith in the military, the government and the country as a whole.
    On a side note, the comments about Bush vetoing the equal pay act, GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR what the fuck? Bush just wants to ruin all of our lives (especially women) before he leaves office and FOR GOOD! Women should definitely be paid as much as men and women should have a choice!! It is so upsetting that a country as modern as ours, we are still so prehistoric!

  • ArmyVetJen

    Thanks for posting this. I spent a few hours last night reading all the testimony. I recommend everyone to read Mary Lauterbach’s testimony. You can see the best of the Marines, those who comforted her after her daughters murder, as well as the worst of the Marines, an all branches wide problem of inneffective application of the half assed rules and regulations.
    I do want to say that it doesn’t matter how much legislation is passed if it cannot be enforced. Unnofical training in the form or language and military culture undercuts all official training meant stop sexual assault. Viewing women as bitches dykes or sluts and men who question that as brokedicks will only continue the problem.

  • Cecelia

    This is heartbreaking! She is an angel!!!
    As I watched this video I felt that there was no compassion coming from these people who were listening to her speak. I just feel like they were numb to it on so many levels.
    As a sexual assault survivor I know how difficult it can to be to even speak about it. It took me two years to do so after the fact. I don’t even want a relationship with anyone nor do I want a man to even touch me in any way. It is very true that the trauma does show up in your dream time. I often dreamed of being raped, assaulted or that I was a prostitute. It still continues and I don’t know how long it will take to heal.
    I feel the more women who SPEAK up about it, the more we all can heal. This is about women, men, children, family, our communities and the current consciousness of our world. It just has to change…

  • ElleStar

    *sigh* Sexual assault within the military is just so disheartening and I do think that Ms. Torres is very brave to come forward and speak about such an important issue.
    But there’s part of me that’s, I don’t know, disappointed(?) that a very pretty, young, white-appearing woman is the voice of sexual assault in the military. I can’t fault others for not testifying (if that’s why they chose his young woman), but part of me thinks they chose her because if they had chosen some other woman of color or who wasn’t as conventionally pretty, she’d be seen as less victim/human/important to those within Congress.
    Maybe I’m just being oversensitive today. Ms. Torres is courageous for coming forward and she has contributed even more service to her country for doing so.

  • ArmyVetJen

    well then ElleStar, check out SWAN,
    Also, Ms. Torres was not in the military, so technically, they didn’t have anyone in the military speak. Typical.

  • annaplum

    [please permit me to stray a little from the immediate topic at hand, I've been trying to think more globally about the epidemic of rape within the military ranks...]
    I watched Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket a few nights ago, and I’ve been thinking in recent days about the connection between the Military Industrial Complex and feminism. How the breakdown of personal identity in basic training/the de-socialization of the human person into a killing machine, hinges on the promise of subjugating someone else, namely women and homosexuals. The communal use of prostitutes, and the allusion to “The Great Homecoming Fuck” were key scenes in the film, the former for building cohesion among the troops and for releasing aggression on a Vietnamese woman, the latter (for releasing aggression?) and for re-integrating the soldier into civilian society. Anecdotally, a few years ago, my husband overheard a solider in the airport after returning from a tour of duty instructing his girlfriend to take some Percocet because she was “gonna take a pounding [in every orifice]” when he returned home. Wartime violence and violent/coercive sex seem so historically linked, whether it’s the sex trade that springs up in ports during wartime, the government-sponsored “Comfort Women” in Japan and China, mass rape as a weapon of war/genocide…
    …I want Ingrid Torres and all the other enlisted women in positions like hers, to have their day in court, to get justice, to be covered in the press, and to enrage the citizens of this country so that this behavior won’t be tolerated anymore. But I also think we as feminists need to work for peace, to refuse to send our SONS AND DAUGHTERS to fight senseless wars–’cause isn’t that what Patriarchy is all about? Demanding that women have sex with “heroes” and have their babies so that the (male) government can dispose of them as IT likes?–
    I’m not so naive as to think that violence is never called for, and women can certainly serve in the military if they so choose. In wartime, however, it seems that no matter which side wins, women alway lose.

  • ArmyVetJen

    DoD defies Sexual Assault Subpoena
    If you wonder why there is a problem, start at the top.

  • miss.meshuganer

    I’ll have to wait till I’m home tonight to watch the video, but that one paragraph you quoted definitely grabbed my interest. The last line especially – about rape victims being the only ones who have to prove their innocence – is very powerful. I’ve never thought about that but it’s so true – and so despicable.
    And what exactly is Bush’s reasoning for planning to veto the Paycheck Fairness Act?? (Semi-rhetorical, I’ll be Googling away to find that out.) I’d love to hear his asinine excuses as to why this isn’t a good and decent thing, and how he’s able to justify women being paid less for equal work. Obviously I know it’ll be a bunch of bullcrap. But really, so he thinks his daughters should get paid 3/4 of what a man would get for doing the same job? He thinks they’re worth that much less than a man? Hell…maybe he does, and that’s disgusting.
    I really really try not to be a total anti-male feminist….but sometimes the males make that damn hard.

  • laurajd

    “I really really try not to be a total anti-male feminist….but sometimes the males make that damn hard.”
    I totally agree with you, miss.meshuganer!
    On a side note, I was cat-called by some loser guy coming out of a grocery store at 9:30PM last night. I did not say anything even though I felt like yelling at him. But, maybe it was best not to say anything and pretend like I do not hear him or something…but, acts like that remind me of being a feminist and it makes me even more proud to be one! :)

  • sncreducer

    One important note not mentioned here or on RH Reality Check —
    The DoD actually ignored a subpoena for Dr. Kaye Whitley, the director of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, to testify. Her boss, Deputy Defense Undersecretary Michael Dominguez ordered her not to appear before the committee, claiming that the responsibility “rests with me.”
    From Think Progress:

    (Oversight Committee Chairman Henry) WAXMAN: We subpoenaed her. You’ve denied her the opportunity to come and testify and put in a situation where we have to contemplate holding her in contempt. I don’t even know if we could hold you in contempt, because you haven’t been issued a subpoena. […]
    I don’t know if we need to subpoena the Secretary and then hold him in contempt; Mr. Chu, and hold him in contempt; you, and hold you in contempt. Those are better options to me than to hold her in contempt, when she’s put in this untenable position, when her — in the line of command — instructs her not to comply with a subpoena of the United States Congress.

    Subcommittee Chairman Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) called Dominguez’s decision a “false notion of bravado” before kicking Dominguez out of the hearing. “We don’t want to hear from you right now. I can tell you, we’re more than a little bit upset with you…You’re dismissed,” he said.
    According to the Defense Department website, Whitley’s office is the “the single point of accountability for the Department of Defense sexual assault policy.” Subcommittee Chairman Tierney explained, “Whitley has testified in Congress before, in fact, before this very subcommittee two years ago, also on sexual assault in the military.”
    Dominguez said no claim of executive privileged was invoked, the department simply chose to ignore the subpoena.

  • wandergrrl

    Her testimony brought tears to my eyes. I’m hopeful that the bravery of these women coming forward will instigate the start of real change. But it is so disheartening to see how those at the top can thwart progress. Thanks for the links and extra info ArmyVetJen & sncreducer.

  • Lilykins

    “–’cause isn’t that what Patriarchy is all about? Demanding that women have sex with “heroes” and have their babies so that the (male) government can dispose of them as IT likes?–”
    I can’t help but notice that Bush proudly talks of being a “war president” and consistanly makes comments about the U.S. being “winners” as if war is just some fun GAME to him. At the same time he is opposed to both abortion and birthcontrol for women.
    I do believe that the Patriarchy sees women as tools to use to(breed) produce more children so it’s proud male leaders have disposable children to use in it’s war games.
    While I respect sodiers who put their lives on the line to serve and protect, I feel that they are victims of men in charge.
    If only the men in charge could feel what it’s like to have your CHILDREN taken from you to be used and killed for some men’s pleasure of of having power over others…hell, if only they could FEEL anything beside egomaniacal pride.