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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  September 5, 2013 5:00pm-5:31pm EDT

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>> hello again everyone i'm tony harris. here the latest headlines at al jazeera. president obama has been trying to win support for action, against the assad regime. the u.s. stance on syria has put it at odds with russia, the host country of this year's meeting. putin said world leaders would discuss the matter at dinner. provenning a military strike on syria, the potential response, some members of congress say they still haven't decided how they will vote just yet. the wildfire that continues to burn in yosemite national park
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was man made according to the u.s. forest service. a huge blaze was sparked when a hunter allowed illegal flames to escape. the so-called rim fire has been burning since august 17th and has consumed 370 square miles. walmart workers are demanding a minimum salary of $25,000 per year. walmart officials told al jazeera, a handful of orchestrated stunts made up of union activates, don't represent the majority of our 1.3 million associates. inside story is next. >> america's military leaders acknowledge a terrible truth. that some of the men and women who sign up to serve the nation end up victims of sexual assault. so is the pentagon doing enough
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to fight the problem or is the solution outside the chain of command? from washington this is inside story on al jazeera america. >> welcome i'm libby casey. every week in the u.s. military there are an estimated 500 sexual assaults and only a fraction are ever reported. just this week at the navy yard here in washington a hearing is underway to determine whether three former naval academy officers should face assault charges. a threat to discipline and cohesion and he's issued directive to try to solve the problem. >> this is going to take all of us. the problem will be solved here. in the -- in this institution.
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and we will -- we will fix it and we will do everything that we need to do to fix it. this problem can't be fixed by the secretary of defense loon. i can direct -- alone, i can direct people, to be accountable, and i will, the president has held me accountable for it and there's not one of these people in leadership today that wants this to be their legacy. >> first on our program, the facts of the new pentagon plan which went into effect last month. it establishes victim advocacy programs including access to a lawyer. it gives commanders the authority to transfer service members accused of sexual assault into other units. and it reopens older cases of abuse that may have been handled improperly before. it also tightens control over potentially inappropriate relationships between recruiters, instructors and troops. but let's go beyond the policy and talk about the personal.
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joining us now by satellite from san francisco is katy weber. she's a form he u.s. army soldier and a sexual assault survivor and now she counci cous other sexual assault survivors. i know this is a very difficult and personal topic. but when you hear what secretary hagel is putting into place, does it sound good, does it sound effective? >> thanks libby. i don't find anything within the chain of command to be effective. my rape was 18 years ago. and now, as a victim advocate receiving calls on a regular basis from active duty service members who are quote unquote stuck on military bases, i don't think it's enough. i don't think that anyone should be required to report something so devastating, traumatic, and just kind of life-altering, to a
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boss. to their boss. that person has no professional training -- >> katy you were so young when this happened to you. >> yeah. >> just into the military at 17, stationed at a pretty isolated place in germany six months into your service when you were raped by someone who had more authority who had a higher ranking for you. what was there for you? did you have anyone you could even talk to about it? >> so -- no. when that happened to me, my recourse ended up, the only recourse i really ended up getting results from was the medical clinic that i reported it to. of course it was an army medical center but they did not do a rape kit. they did not examine me. i felt like they didn't know how to deal with a woman. and i really felt unsafe, unprotected, and i did report this to my chain of command, and
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going up the chain, two females and finally a male that i reported to, no results. i was nine months still stuck on that base in germany, crying every night. isolated, ostracized with a reputation of you know, weber's the new girl who is going to say you raped her, if you hang out with her. and that was devastating. i was 18, i was in a foreign country and i really just, you know, was so alone. >> and now you answer the phone at military rape crisis center when victims are looking for help. do you hear a difference in their stories today? have things advanced over the past almost two decades? >> i have yet to hear a successful prosecution story from a victim that felt like she or he had received justice. i look forward to hearing about more convictions. however, until it's taken out of the chain of command i think
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we're still dealing with a friendship issue here with the boss. >> what would that look like. >> if the boss knows the rapist. >> how would that do going up the chain of command? >> just like civilians we get medical professionals, we have mental health professionals, we get access to support and encouragement. in the military you don't get any of that if you don't go awol. at this point, it's very difficult to be released from your military contract after reporting rape. and when you're feeling like you're trapped in the unity and you just want -- unit and get out of the military the military doesn't make it easy so you are stuck there and you are on that base most likely with the rapist or his friends or his community. and you're stuck. and -- or the option is, you can
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do an expedited transfer for the victim. which would remove the victim from the area. where she or he has been receiving support. and transfer them to a whole new base. and take their records with them so the new base gets to know what just happened at the old post. >> katy weber, thanks very much for sharing your situation. a rape crisis counselor and a veteran of the u.s. army. thanks katy. >> thank you. >> coming up, taking control of the investigating cases outside that military chain of command. stay with us.
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>> welcome back to night story. we're talking about the persistent problem of sexual assaults in the military and the different approaches to solving it. morris davis is a retired u.s. colonel and affairs judiciary. connie best, retired navy, medical university of south carolina. and back in our studio, j. d. gordon former pentagon spokesman. let's look at the number of sexual assaults reported by the pentagon this spring. last year there were an estimated of 26,000 unwanted sexual instances in the military roughly 500 a week. of those a little over 3,000 cases were filed the whole year less than 10% and of those 3,000 reported caitses fewer than --
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cases fewer than 10% resulted in a conviction. resulted in minor administrative or dismissals. the pentagon has tried to change things. what is important? >> sexual assault is a problem in the military and it is positive that secretary hagel is trying to prevent these. the secretary has made comments that could be construed as undue command influence essentially where he's talking about giving people dishonorable discharges and stripping them of their rank. as a president you settle the tone for the entire military so judges can cue off of that. unlike a senator if you are the president and making these kind of statements, a lot of these sexual harassment cases which are now gray will be black and
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white issues. >> i want to know if you think this will make a difference, mo davis? >> this went back two decades. taillook was 1993, ashed aberdeen proving grounds,. >> these are very serious sexual assaults sawlt issues going on, they weren't about an individual they were cultural. >> it is. it is a military culture over the past couple of centuries had been a male dominated environment. i can tell you i joined the air force in 1983 and we still had officers clubs that had strippers performing on friday nights. basically it was a boys club environment where sexual assaults or harassment, unless it blew up and became a problem for commanders kind of got a wink and a nod and it's gone on
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for the too lock. -- too good. the changes are good. but they're too heavily orientalled, after the bone is broken it's fine to treat it but we should avoid break it to begin with. these sexual assaults measures that are intended to kick in after the assault's taken place. >> dr. connie best, what do you think these initiatives would do, reopening some old cases that were never dealt with, does it make a difference? >> i think it makes a great difference. and i think that there were several other initiatives that they have just announced that they are doing and i think one of the more important ones you just said is providing advocates and legal representation to the victims throughout the process. i think one of the things that can reduce the anxiety and angst the victim is going through, you keep them supported and informed
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through the whole process if they choose to come forward. i think those are two elements that going forth will be very good for victims. i think they will be very appreciative of that and i think that will actually make the whole process less traumatizing to them. >> mo davis what happens now if someone is a victim of sexual assault, not just women, men are victims. where do they go and who do they speak to? >> i think the military has gotten better not by force but by choice. these situations are in a training environment which is a coercive environment to begin with. so going to the chain of command to complain the guy above me was the one who abused me was not a particularly good situation. so the military has tried to create as you mentioned providing attorneys to advise victims on their legal rights is a good step. but that's one thing we found at
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the air force academy. there needs to be a safety valve, as the doctor said, get accurate information what their rights are and their avenues whether they wanted to report it into law enforcement channels, whether they want to go for treatment and empower them to make an informed decision. i think the military is doing abetter job than they did ten years ago. >> chain of command, kirsten gillebrand is trying to work that through. dr. best, is chain of command part of the problem or can it be a solution? >> you know that's a difficult answer and i can tell you i've kept pace with -- i mean kept up with all the news stories as i can. and there are a lot of smart and bright and informed and well-being people on both sides of that issue. i think what's important at the end of all the discussion really from a victim's standpoint is
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whatever system that you come up with, that it will be user friendly to victims, it will provide comfort if they choose to come forward, that they can do so without fear of retaliation for coming forward and as i said be informed throughout and really, at the end of the day, if there is a guilty verdict, that they have the opportunity to provide input at the sentencing phase. i think that's vitally important, in the civilian world we call that a victim impact statement. and i think that that's one change that they've recommended will occur to be really good for the victims and the whole process. j.d. gordon, going outside the chain of command how would it change things? >> if the congress is trying to meddle in the ucmj -- >> the ucmj? >> i'm sorry, the uniform code of military justice. i think it adds dysfunction to it, the chain of command is
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adequate and that's the way to go. i think this shows the issue is being politicized. the sexual assaults in the military, how they arise is the function of the low morale, we have a trillion dollars of defense cuts coming down the pike, which means there are decreasing benefits, retirement is going to change. i think there's low morale. >> we'll speak about that in the second half of the country. the chain of command, is it working? we've heard from a victim of sexual assault, it was lard to go through her superiors to alert them to what she was facing. >> the military is made of people, are good about it and some are not. i agree with connie, we need to do more along the lines of
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training and victims advocacy, those are some of the positive aspects that secretary hagel is trying to put in place. >> we'll turn to you mo davis, the chain of command an what you heard from j.d. >> one i'm of two minds. the system is a byproduct of world war ii. the ucmj was enacted in 1951. if it was a person it would be eligible for social security. the military is the most trusted institution in america, has been for years and years. congress is one of the least trust evidence institutions in america. so you're going to have the least trusted institution tell the most trusted how to fill their problem. >> how does the chain of command change? >> if you are going to change the chain of command, we are on
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the brink of launching missiles in syria. we've given congress billions of dollars of assets, thousands of people to command, and about to send them with a military decision, tell them we trust you with this but not this little piece of the pie, we don't trust with you that, that's the wrong message. if we take ucmg authority out of their hands it should be all not part. >> we'll talk more about the culture inside the military and whether or not it breeds sexual violence or fit actually helps the problem. stay with us.
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>> we must acknowledge that even here, even in our military we've seen how the misconduct of some can have effects that ripple far and wide. those that commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime. they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong. >> that's president obama at the military academy graduation this year. joining us in our studio is
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morris davis, from charleston south carolina, connie best, from the medical university of success. and also in our studio j.d. gordon, retired, former pept gone spokesman. connie beft, is experiencing sexual assault in the military different than experiencing sexual assault when you're a civilian? >> there are similarities and some that are the same. i think different in the civilian community they may work and live in the same area that the person that assaulted them lives. they may be in the same squadron, the same unit and they may also live in the same dormitory or barracks. you don't have that same overlap
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in the civilian community. but otherwise a rape that's experienced by victims, the same. they are people and they have been traumatized whether they are male or female. and that is probably a larger component that they experience it the same no matter if they're a military member or a member of the civilian communities. >> and connie best people who enter the military they get strong internally, as well as physically. what is it like when they are able the tell people, they've experienced it, can they point the finger that they're not at fault? >> i think victims are you know, they're individuals or people, they experience it differently. but i think one of the things is, it is still a little bit stigmatizing to say that they are a rape victim. we wish that was not so. because if it was not so then they would come forward probably earlier and get interventions and treatment and medical
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treatment particularly maybe even legal intervention at an earlier state. but a victim of a sexual assault is traumatic to people, doesn't matter that background and doesn't matter if they are military or civilian. it does change them, it is a life changing event. >> j. d, everything from war fatigue to the economy in general, how do the external forces impact the situation? >> well, i think that military morale is low right now. we've seen an all time high for military suicides, they're double since 2001 and if you count the military they're triple. i think the extended words, the decreasing benefits are really pushing the military to where you have problems. and one of the problems is an increase in sexual assaults. now i think on balance sexual assaults are lower than when i first came in the military. they were 47 lent then, they are much less now. >> do you have numbers for that
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or anecdotal? >> anecdotal, when i first joined the military in the '80s aa midshipman sexual assaults were relatively common. they are less common now because the culture has changed. they can't be overin politicized because a lot of the gray area cases will become black and white cases. >> how do you take the responsibility and put it in the right place? members of the military facing a lot of challenges, if you perpetrate an assault you're still to imlaim. you can't blame the culture at large, how do you deal with that? >> you need a balance. secretary hagel is doing right thing to address it. you can't let it go unchecked. you have to address it. you can't do things like he's looking to do like transfer or reassign the people that accuse the accusers, that will hurt morale further because basically if you are saying that anybody
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who is either an accused or accuser you can transfer them, i think a lot of people are miserable in their circumstances both from the accused and accusers, to transfer a person out is appliqué a get out of jail free card and could result in worse morale. >> do you believe that? >> even an allegation of a sexual assault is a difficult problem. >> mang imagine that if you are a victim and still have to work with a person earn who assaulted you. >> i have seen cases, not often but someone who an alleged victim realized they were on a path of trouble and this was used as kind of a hands off me, i'm an alleged victim. so it is a difficult problem. what i really think the military needs to do though is change the culture. not treat the illness after it's happened, prevent the illness.
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>> how would you do that? >> when we came in the military there was a boys club environment, anything goes, testosterone environment. but now that we have women in the military, openly serving gays and lesbians, we have got to make this where you don't assault your team about mates. it's one team, one fight, male, female, gay, straight. there is no one worse than someone being a child sex abuser, there ought to be a stigma attached to being a sexual abuser. >> dr. best how does the culture need to change in order to help prevent sexual assaults? >> i don't think there's any magic bullet or one particular way. i think it takes a combination of training, they have a saying in the military death by
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powerpoint, you don't want to do that. you want to address the issues that are there, you want to try to change the culture. there are a lot of interventions, bystander interventions where you say to people, even though you're watching it, you are not engaged in it, you oar participant in it, and you don't assault people in your unit or your squadron. i think it is a multipronged approach to it, i think having accountability within the legal system is another part of that. if people are not brought forth in terms of being held accountable there then that's an issue. i think you really have to step back. you have to learn what you can do. the military can take some pointers from the civilian community just as the civilian community can take pointers from house -- >> sorry but we're out of time. thank you so much to all of you for joining us today. that's it for now from the team in washington, d.c, an from me libby casey. justice.
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