Rape in the military: Congress charges cover-up

August 2, 2008

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Story Transcript

INGRID TORRES, SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIM: I still wake in the night. He still comes after me in my dreams.

REP JANE HARMAN (D-CA), CO-SPONSOR OF HARMAN-TURNER BILL AGAINST MILITARY RAPES: Women serving in the US military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.

VOICEOVER: This is the first oversight hearing on rape in the military held this year to address the ineffective action and lack of transparency in addressing these cases on the part of the Department of Defense. There were over 2,000 sexual assaults reported by military personnel last year.

REP. JOHN TIERNEY (D-MA), CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS: We hear time and again that the military has a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual assaults, yet there sometimes appears to be a lack of urgency or leadership or resources to transform those statements into reality.

REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER (D-NY): I don’t want any more women coming into work in the morning, saluting the man who may have raped her the night before.

HARMAN: The stories are shocking in their simplicity and brutality. A female military recruit is pinned down at knife point and raped repeatedly in her barracks. Though her attackers hid their faces, she identified them by their uniforms. They were her fellow soldiers. During a routine gynecological exam, a female soldier is attacked and raped by her military physician. Yet another young soldier still adapting to life in a war zone is raped by her commanding officer. Afraid for her standing in her unit, she feels she has nowhere to turn. These stories are, sadly, not isolated events.

TORRES: It was while I was stationed at Kunsan Air Base in the Republic of Korea in 2006 that I endured an assault, which is the reason I’m sitting in front of all of you today. On the evening of the assault, I had taken Ambien, the medication I had been prescribed to aid in sleep after serving in Iraq, and I was raped while I slept. The perpetrator, who was an installation flight doctor, had a complete understanding of the effects of a sleeping aid such as Ambien, and he used that knowledge to hurt me. He was later found guilty, and is currently in military confinement, and has been dismissed from the Air Force. The road after sexual assault is a long and challenging one. As is typical with victims of violent crime, I suffered from PTSD, terrifying nightmares, and depression. Since the night of the rape and in the aftermath of the trial, I’ve experienced the SAPRO program at duty stations in Korea, Japan, and Germany. I must say that the programs in each area vary greatly, some better, some worse, all in need of change.

PHOTOGRAPH CAPTION: Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach, 20. Raped and murdered by fellow Marine in 2007.

MARY LAUTERBACH, MOTHER OF MARIA LAUTERBACH: Maria will always be a hero to me. Maria is dead, but there will be many more victims in the future, I promise you. I’m here to ask you to do what you can to help change how the military treats victims of crime and to ensure that the victims receive the support and protection they need and they deserve.

VOICEOVER: The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was implemented by the Department of Defense in October 2004 to reduce the number of sexual assaults in the military and to measure offender accountability.

PHOTOGRAPH CAPTION: Dr. Kaye Whitley, Director of Department of Defense SAPRO Program.

VOICEOVER: The fledgling program has received much criticism. Its director, Dr. Kaye Whitley, who was subpoenaed by the committee, failed to show, under orders by her superior, Michael Dominguez.


TIERNEY: Mr. Dominguez, I noticed that Dr. Kaye Whitley is not in her chair. Is it under your direction that she has not shown for testimony this morning?


TIERNEY: You directed her not to?


TIERNEY: Do you have an executive privilege to assert?


TIERNEY: We invited Dr. Whitley to testify at this hearing more than a month ago.


REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA), SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Mr. Dominguez, you said you’ve instructed her not to come. What is your reason for doing that?

DOMINGUEZ: If you find the department’s response and provisions efforts fall short of your expectations, responsibility for that shortfall rests with me.

WAXMAN: The Department of Defense has a history of covering up sexual offense problems. We all remember Tailhook and the scandal and how the military tried to cover that up. And I don’t know what you’re trying to cover up here, but we’re not going to allow it. I don’t know who you think elected you to defy the Congress of the United States. We’re an independent branch of government.


TIERNEY: We decide who we want to have for witnesses at this hearing; we decide who are the people that are going to give us factual testimony, the ones that we want to hear from when we are investigating or having a hearing. So, for now, Mr. Dominguez, you are dismissed, and we’ll hear from the Defense Department and the witnesses we want to hear from at a future date, and we’ll take such actions we all deem is appropriate in light of your inappropriate action that you have taken.


INTERVIEWER: How do you feel about the Department of Defense’s lack of transparency with the no-show of Dr. Kaye Whitley today?

HARMAN: I’m extremely disappointed. The leadership starts at the top, and there’s clearly a major problem at the Department of Defense. There’s an epidemic of assaults and rapes against military women by US soldiers. They’re more likely to be raped and assaulted than they are to be killed in Iraq. And the Defense Department has to send its top people up here to help Congress oversee and decide what to do about this problem.


VOICEOVER: Following the hearing, Michael Dominguez refused to speak with reporters. He returned to the Pentagon leaving behind a lot of unanswered questions.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.