Testifying at a Senate Judiciary Oversight Committee, Janet Napolitano testified that the misconduct in Colombia of over 20 military and Secret Service men appeared to be an “isolated case.” She said it would be a “surprise to me” if this were not an isolated incident.   On its face that statement is laughable. The mere fact that at least 24 men were involved would indicate that this was an example of 24 “isolated cases.”  The only thing “isolated” about the case was the fact that it came to the attention of the public.  Napolitano chose to ignore the inconvenient truth. Liz Trotta on Fox News admitted that there is rampant abuse of women in the military, but asked the question, “What did they expect?”The fact that Fox News invited this woman to appear and speak on national television is unforgivable. She represents, and obviously approves of the most unforgivable attitude towards women. Fox News made it possible for her to promote this abusive attitude on national television. Words are insufficient to describe the outrage I feel listening to this interview. Consider the facts easily available to all of us on the internet this morning:

1. At least 24 men were involved in the Colombia prostitution scandal. Half were members of the military and half were Secret Service. 

2. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta learned for the first time this last week of abuse that occurred in Brazil. Mr. Panetta was questioned by a reporter who brought an incident to his attention. It happened in November of 2011, but the Secretary of Defense had to learn about it from a reporter in March of 2012! As if discarding a piece of trash, three Marines, and an Embassy staff member threw a woman, Romilda Ferreira, out of a moving car. It was an Embassy car. The car ran over her! The car RAN OVER HER !!! The woman hit her head and lost consciousness. When she regained consciousness she was barely alive, suffering from a punctured lung, a broken collar bone, and broken ribs. The men involved could not be charged by Brazilian officials because they were “pulled out of the country before the police could file charges.’  Somebody in a position of authority had to pull these men out of Brazil and cover-up the story.   It appears the military thought they had done enough to made amends. They paid the woman’s medical bills. 

3. Just yesterday a reporter from Seattle uncovered another cover up of Secret Service agents in El Salvador acting badly. The incident occurred in March of 2011 just before Obama’s visit. The eyewitness reported that he joined about a dozen Secret Service agents and a few U.S. military specialists at a strip club in San Salvador. The majority of the Secret Service agents were “wasted,” or “heavily intoxicated” at the strip club. Most of the Secret Service members at the bar paid extra for access to the VIP section of the club where they were provided a number of sexual favors in return for their cash. Even though warned against doing so, the agents took the strippers back to their hotel rooms, explaining that they “did this all the time” and “not to worry about it.”  The owner of the night club reported that the agents involved were there at least three nights in a row. He reported that his club routinely takes care of high-ranking employees of the U.S. embassy in San Salvador as well as visiting FBI and DEA agents. The owner says his reputation for “security” and “privacy” makes him a popular strip club owner with “those who want to be discreet.”

4. Abuse of women in the military is rampant.

• “A woman who signs up to protect her country is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.”

• Only 14 % of sexual assaults are reported by women in the military, according to the Pentagon. Of those 14% of cases, only 8% resulted on court martial. 

• Four in ten women in military veterans have been raped by fellow soldiers.

• Sexual assault in the military is “pervasive” and “constant.” Many women veterans feel ashamed, terrified, blaming themselves irrationally and without trust in others. These women often turn to drugs or drink to numb the pain.

• Women described the horror of abuse from the very people you’ve been told have your back. Then the betrayal from the command is often worse than the assault itself. Imagine the horror of being raped by someone who is supposed to save your life in battle. “You don’t want to believe it’s real. You don’t want to have to deal with it. The family doesn’t want to deal with it. Society doesn’t want to deal with it.”

• Retaliation against the victims for reporting sexual assault is also rampant. Just one example was a woman who was raped by a fellow Coast Guard member, given no medical services, made to continue working with her rapist and ultimately dismissed from the Coast Guard as unfit for duty. The source of her “unfitness for duty” was the trauma she suffered from both the assault and her futile attempts to seek justice from a stonewalling commander who told her to “shut up and leave his office.” Bertzikis is one of 17 plaintiffs in a class-action suit filed February 15, 2011, in Federal District Court in Virginia, against former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, charging them with failure to protect service members from repeated rape and sexual assault in the military and failure to investigate complaints or prosecute and punish perpetrators.

• 8 in 10 women in the military have been sexually harassed during their military service. Of those raped, 37% were raped at least twice and 14% were gang raped.

• 80% of rapes in the Air Force are not reported.

• One of the most horrific consequences of women’s efforts to protect themselves from sexual assault is the death of several female soldiers in Iraq who died from dehydration in their sleep. Despite the 120-degree desert heat and little to no air conditioning, they stopped drinking liquids after 3 or 4 PM. They did so to avoid using remote, unlit latrines after dark because of the high risk of being raped by fellow soldiers. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, senior US military commander in Iraq, ordered a coverup of this potentially explosive news, directing the reporting surgeon to omit in oral briefs that the deceased soldiers were women and not to list the cause of death on their death certificates. His attitude? “The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory.”

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