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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Congress Takes Up Sexual Assault In The Military

Jessica Hinves was a fighter jet mechanic when she was raped by a fellow service member at Lackland Air Force Base. (Courtesy Cinedigm/Docurama Films)

Jessica Hinves was a fighter jet mechanic when she was raped by a fellow service member at Lackland Air Force Base. (Courtesy Cinedigm/Docurama Films)

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Senate is taking up the problem of military sexual assaults (MSAs).

Wednesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing comes on the heels of recent charges of systemic sexual assault occurring at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

Thirty-two training instructors at Lackland Air Force base have been accused of sexually assaulting 62 trainees during basic training.

The House Armed Services Committee hearing into the scandal was sparsely attended and top military officials left before victims’ testimony.

Airman 1st Class Jessica Hinves. (Courtesy Cinedigm/Docurama Films)

Airman 1st Class Jessica Hinves. (Courtesy Cinedigm/Docurama Films)

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that if the military doesn’t take steps to deal with the problem, it’s going to get worse.

In 2011, nearly 3,000 cases of sexual assault were reported in the armed forces. About 240 of them were prosecuted.

But Panetta has said the actual number of sexual assaults is likely around 19,000, since only 20 percent of sexual assaults are reported because of fear of retaliation.

Earlier this week, some lawmakers questioned how the military deals with these cases, including how much power commanding officers are given in dealing with them.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice gives the commanding officer power to overturn legal decisions or lessen sentences handed down by judges and juries at courts martial. It’s called “convening authority.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in a letter to lawmakers on Monday that he will begin “an internal review of a decision by a senior Air Force commander to overturn the sexual assault conviction of an Air Force fighter pilot.”

Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin dismissed charges against a lieutenant colonel convicted of sexual assault. (U.S. Air Force/AP)

Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin dismissed charges against a lieutenant colonel convicted of sexual assault. (U.S. Air Force/AP)

This case involves Lieutenant General Craig Franklin, who dismissed the conviction of Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson, who had been sentenced to a year in military prison for groping a sleeping woman. After his conviction was overturned, Wilkerson returned to his post.

One of the suggested reforms is the proposed Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention (STOP) Act.

First introduced in 2011 by California Rep. Jackie Speier, her office says it would “take the reporting, oversight, investigation and victim care of sexual assaults out of the hands of the military’s normal chain of command and place jurisdiction in the newly created, autonomous sexual assault oversight and response office comprised of civilian and military experts.”

The STOP Act died in committee last year, but Rep. Speier says she plans to re-introduce it in the next few weeks.

On Tuesday, Sepier introduced another piece of legislation, the Military Judicial Reform Act, which if passed would remove the powers of convening authority.

To take a closer look at the issue of sexual assaults in the military, Here & Now spoke with Jessica Hinves. She was an Air Force fighter jet mechanic when she was raped at Lackland Air Force Base.

Hinves is now a member of the advocacy board of Protect Our Defenders, a group that works to being attention to military sexual assault.

Makers of the documentary “The Invisible War” produced this video about her:


  • Susan Burke, a lawyer specializing in cases of military sexual assault
  • Jessica Hinves, former fighter jet mechanic for the Air Force who was raped by a fellow service member. She’s now a member of the advocacy board of Protect Our Defenders.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Cher

    When I was in the military, I was a victim of sexual harassment. When I would tell my TSgt that I was uncomfortable and ask him to stop crossing lines, he would get angry and say and do mean things like write me up for made-up things and threaten my job and my life. My keys disappeared and when I got home, things were rearranged in my house. He would follow me. The Master Sergeant in my unit was a woman and actually told me that “women tend to bring these things on themselves.” 

    Meanwhile, this guy had a history and they protected him and tried to throw me out. I fought really hard / worked really hard and made it out with an honorable discharge. He was forced to retire early when he did it to a civilian woman who didn’t have to deal with the unethical military chain of command, but he received his whole pension. If I wanted to stay in the military, I probably couldn’t have. They tried to blame me and make me an example, so I’m pretty proud of how I handled it. But I’m equally disgusted that he was protected after having done this so many times. 

  • Let_it_rain_feeney

    With Congress looking into rape in the Military I have to wonder why no one is talking about the Academy nominated documentary, Invisible War? 


    • Let_it_rain_feeney

      Oh I see now you have it in here, but it was not talked about on air! 

  • Masterjiggs

    Using sexual assault as an excuse to keep women from serving in the military is once again throwing all the responsibility for the moral behavior of males onto the women.  Camo-burkas, ladies?

  • Why?

    Jessica Hinves was an inspiring guest. She was amazingly well spoken about a subject that is so unbelievably devastating to the victim. The situation that Ms Hinves described is completely inexcusable and the military should be ashamed that they allowed this to happen and how it was “dealt with”. I can’t tell you how upset this made me to hear about and then to find out that this type of issue is not an isolated event.
    Having been a victim of rape myself I applaud Ms Hinves for the candor and strength with which she is handling these events, I wish that I had the courage to have done the same. There are many good men and women who serve our country and they deserve the same protection against this type of activity as the rest us. The fact is, all instances of sexual assault, no matter the circumstances, should be handled as brutal affronts to society and should be treated as such.
    Thank you Here & Now for this story and thank you Ms Hinve for speaking up when so many of us suffer in silence.

  • holden

    i heard the point of view that this was a reason to Not allow women in combat. WHAT!? NO NO NO So are we saying we can’t put women  on the front lines because our male soldiers dont have enough self control not to rape a another human being. This is not a serious argument is it?
    Listen to how it sounds
    “We can’t put women out there, if they don’t give it up you know our guys will rape them”

  • Monica

    I wish the conversation would move from what women have to do to stop rape (i.e. women should not be in the military or drink). We need to move to teaching men not to rape. We need to teach boys, from young ages, how to respect women, not objectify women, and how to speak out to other men about not raping or joking about it.

  • Sgt. C

    I have been in the Marines for the last 9 years. I agree there is more that needs to be done. We currently have mandatory annual training at every level to identify those threats and protect our brothers and sisters. I personally believe the military is put under a microscope because we are “the military”. What about taking all the currently enrolled college students in the United States and looking at those numbers? What can we do about the big picture? I think overall we are failing to educate young men and women on the prevention. I think the answer is better education to help identify the signs of sexual harassment and rape. As a mentor I personally take it upon myself to constantly educate my Marines. Thank you for your time.

    • Kriegar

      I think that the microscope is on the military for the reason described in the article, and the way justice is subverted by the UCMJ , and the chain of command.

      Also, I find that the suggestion that women need to be educated on “rape prevention” is hostile and insulting. People claiming to be “men” need to learn how to contain themselves, and to keep their hands to themselves, purely and simply. Rape is NOT an issue created by the victim, but of the perpetrator, and it is a criminal assault.

  • Dale Sellin

    With respect to chain of command intervention, it seems to me there’s a parallel between the military case and the errant Catholic priests protected by their superiors.  The church now (is supposed) to hand over the miscreants to local police.

    Whatever the authorities did to change the church’s M.O. should be mimicked in this case.

    D  Sellin

  • Mary

    I am appalled that women continue to take the blame for sexual harrassment and assault in the military and other institutions in this country. The best Congress has done is pass a law allowing victims to transfer to another base?? How sickening. To paraphrase a sign I’ve seen floating around the Internet: instead of teaching women how not to get raped, we SHOULD be teaching men NOT TO RAPE. I’m proud of those who serve in our military, but I am ASHAMED that our military establishment is permitted to continue dispensing injustice to its hardworking servicemembers.

    • Kriegar

      I just want to point out one thing here: MEN, real men, do not rape.

      Criminals and animals do, but not real men.

  • Vidaloca

    Rape is abhorrent under any circumstances. But it seems to me that one American soldier attacking another American soldier in an active combat zone is an act of treason and should be treated as such. 

    • Sgt. C

      I agree!

  • Jonna Devlin

    I thought the question about the debate on whether or not women should be allowed to serve was thoughtless. The question almost seems to hint that if a woman is in the Military, another soldier might not be able to contain himself and he just might rape her. The issue is rape in the Military; people should not be assaulting others, and there should be severve consequences if they do. Whether it’s a man attacking a woman or a man attacking another man, it is wrong; and it is the attacker’s fault, period.
    I am proud of the woman for coming forward and glad that you are shedding light on the problem, I just wanted to say what I wish your guest had said.

  • Kriegar

    What a typically neanderthal approach to assault by the military personnel in charge of oversight.

    Hell yes, take the responsibility and power to deal with these things out of their hands. The numbers prove that they are unfit to manage the responsibility  and frankly, ought to be charged with conduct unbecoming an officer for sweeping this crap under the rug the way they have.

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