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Congress: Here’s Why You Should Pass The Military Justice Improvement Act
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposed Military Justice Improvement Act of 2017 would attack the scourge of military sexual violence by removing prosecution authority over sexual assault from commanders. Congress should pass her bill.
Sexual violence is pervasive in our military. In 2016, DoD received 6,172 reports. Yet most victims do not report, leading DoD to estimate the actual number at 14,900. Despite DoD claiming success in this fight, reported sexual assaults rose almost 10% in 2017 to 6,796. Include those not reporting, and over 16,000 service men and women were victims last year.
Why would victims come forward? 58% of women and 60% of men who did faced retaliation, in most cases from their chains of command.
She was 19 when three men in her military police unit raped her. She reported it to her commander; but he believed the males, who claimed it was a consensual three-on-one orgy.
I was the judge in the Riverside County Veterans Court when a woman I will refer to as “Carla” — not her real name — stood before me charged with felony thefts. Inspired by her father, she enlisted at 18. “My dad was a Vietnam vet and believed in service,” she said. “He came to my graduation from basic. He was so proud of me. I was so proud to wear the uniform.”
She was 19 when three men in her military police unit raped her. She reported it to her commander; but he believed the males, who claimed it was a consensual three-on-one orgy. Ostracized, she began drinking heavily to relieve her depression. Her job performance fell. Eight months later, she was discharged.
Standing before me in court, Carla looked tired and beaten. If I hadn’t known she was 35, I would have guessed her to be 50. Bitter from her military experience, Carla had turned to methamphetamine, a common form of self-medication for people suffering from PTSD, as she was. I placed her on probation, where she was treated for depression, PTSD, and military sexual trauma.
Carla is not unique. A third of victims who come forward are discharged early — on average, 7 months after the report.
The commander makes the decision to prosecute sexual violence complaints. There is a misconception that leaders like Carla’s do not care about sexual assault. The overwhelming majority do support prosecution. Just not against one of theirs. Members of a military unit share the dangers. They guard each other’s flanks. They become close.
Please don’t blame society for the problem. Illicit drug use was once rampant in our military. It is now far below civilian levels.
Unless the victim was beaten, physical evidence is generally inconclusive or nonexistent, leaving the commander with a “he said, she said” situation. If the victim is newly assigned and the accused a long-time member, the commander is primed to disbelieve the complaint.
This happens at high levels. Lt. Col. James Wilkerson left the Air Force with full retirement benefits after a panel of senior officers convicted him of rape in 2013. Gen. Craig Franklin, however, set aside the verdict after reading 90 character letters from fellow officers, none of whom were present during the crime.
That’s the wrong approach. Rape hurts more than the victim, though justice for that person must be the prime goal. Nothing destroys unit morale quicker than a soldier getting away with rape. The occurrence of sexual violence is a sign that a commander is failing to maintain good order and discipline.
Please don’t blame society for the problem. Illicit drug use was once rampant in our military. It is now far below civilian levels. Winning the battle did not come, however, by teaching soldiers “healthy choices.” It came through identifying and punishing those abusing drugs.
DoD can win the war on sexual violence, too. But first, prosecutions must be brought, and that will happen with fairness and consistency only if we rely on unbiased experts outside the command. That’s why Congress should pass Senator Gilliland’s legislation.
The last time I talked to Carla, she was 18 months sober. She laughed and smiled, but she always seemed sad.
In 1986, I defended a soldier charged with rape. At sentencing, the prosecutor said something I never forgot: “There is a reason why the maximum punishment for rape is life, far more severe than for other crimes of violence. It is because rape destroys a woman’s soul.” He was right. It destroys men's, too. It’s time to do something.
E. (Mark) Johnson is a California Superior Court Judge. For five years he presided over the Riverside County Veterans Court, supervising the recovery of combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions. He is a retired colonel of the United States Army Reserve, an Iraq War veteran, and a graduate of the Army War College.
Moments before Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia went back into the house, journalist Michael Ware said he was "pacing like a caged tiger ... almost like he was talking to himself."
"I distinctly remember while everybody else had taken cover temporarily, there out in the open on the street — still exposed to the fire from the roof — was David Bellavia," Ware told Task & Purpose on Monday. "David stopped pacing, he looked up and sees that the only person still there on the street is me. And I'm just standing there with my arms folded.
"He looked up from the pacing, stared straight into my eyes, and said 'Fuck it.' And I stared straight back at him and said 'Fuck it,'" Ware said. "And that's when I knew, we were both going back in that house."
Former Army Special Forces Maj. Matthew Golsteyn will plead not guilty to a charge of murder for allegedly shooting an unarmed Afghan man whom a tribal leader had identified as a Taliban bomb maker, his attorney said.
Golsteyn will be arraigned on Thursday morning at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Phillip Stackhouse told Task & Purpose.
No date has been set for his trial yet, said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
John Wick is back, and he's here to stay. It doesn't matter how many bad guys show up to try to collect on that bounty.
With John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, the titular hitman, played by 54-year-old Keanu Reeves, continues on a blood-soaked hyper-stylized odyssey of revenge: first for his slain dog, then his wrecked car, then his destroyed house, then ... well, honestly it's hard to keep track of exactly what Wick is avenging by this point, or the body count he's racked up in the process.
Though we do know that the franchise has raked in plenty of success at the box office: just a week after it's May 17 release, the third installment in director Chad Stahleski's series took in roughly $181 million, making it even more successful than its two wildly popular prequels 2014's John Wick, and 2017's John Wick: Chapter 2.
And, more importantly, Reeves' hitman is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest action movie heroes in recent memory. Few (if any) other action flicks have succeeded in creating a mind-blowing avant garde ballet out of a dozen well-dressed gunmen who get shot, choked, or stabbed with a pencil by a pissed off hitman who just wants to return to retirement.
But for all the over-the-top acrobatics, fight sequences, and gun-porn (see: the sommelier), what makes the series so enthralling, especially for the service members and vets in the audience, is that there are some refreshing moments of realism nestled under all of that gun fu. Wrack your brain and try to remember the last time you saw an action hero do a press check during a shootout, clear a jam, or actually, you know, reload, instead of just hip-firing 300 rounds from an M16 nonstop. It's cool, we'll wait.
As it turns out, there's a good reason for the caliber of gun-play in John Wick. One of the franchise's secret weapons is a professional three-gun shooter named Taran Butler, who told Task & Purpose he can draw and hit three targets in 0.67 seconds from 10 yards. And if you've watched any of the scores of videos he's uploaded to social media over the years, it's pretty clear that this isn't idle boasting.
The Navy's electromagnetic railgun is undergoing what officials described as "essentially a shakedown" of critical systems before finally installing a tactical demonstrator aboard a surface warship, the latest sign that the once-beleaguered supergun may actually end up seeing combat.
That pretty much means this is could be the last set of tests before actually slapping this bad boy onto a warship, for once.
The Justice Department has accused Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) of illegally using campaign funds to pay for extramarital affairs with five women.
Hunter, who fought in the Iraq War as a Marine artillery officer, and his wife Margaret were indicated by a federal jury on Aug. 21, 2018 for allegedly using up to $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use.
In a recent court filing, federal prosecutors accused Hunter of using campaign money to pay for a variety of expenses involved with his affairs, ranging from a $1,008 hotel bill to $7 for a Sam Adams beer.