Thursday, June 13, 2013

SoCal Fem Feature - The Military Justice Improvement Act

This week's fem feature deals with sexual misconduct within the US military and since San Diego is home to several bases for the Marines (Camp Pendleton and Miramar) and the Navy, it isn't only a national issue but a local one as well. When I was deciding what news story to write about for the third Fem Feature I wavered on discussing anything about the military since many members of my and Chris' family - my brother, grandfathers, cousins, father-in-laws - have collectively spent decades in the service and I'm wary of sounding like an unappreciative critic to these people, whom I love. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that writing about an issue that's already receiving global attention isn't only okay, it's what my family members served in the military to protect - my freedom of speech, which, in turn, gives me the responsibility to fight for justice against sexual predators, especially in a system that prides itself on honor and respect.

Recently the military has been in the news time and time again due to charges of sexual violence, sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment. These issues are so prevalent that just today the Navy released the "flirtatious" (read, harassing) text messages that got Navy Officer Allen Maestas, the second in command for the San Diego Beachmaster unit, removed from his job in May. Last month the Depart of Defense released a report stating that sexual abuse has risen 35 percent over the last couple of years (which may be due, in large part, to the increase of women in the military), and that number only represents the cases that are reported (since the often realized fears of slut shaming and victim blaming are so common in issues of sexual abuse, many cases go unreported).  Of course it's hard to report a case of sexual assault when the officers in charge of prevention are they themselves accused of sexual assault.  Because nothing is more awesome than being sexually molested by the same person you're saluting. If that's not a big, bright red, blinking, warning sign that there's a problem then I must be colorblind. Clearly there's a problem of sexual misconduct in the military and, clearly, the Pentagon needs to do something about it ,but, since they've failed in their prevention efforts thus far, Senator Gillibrand (NY), Senator Boxer (CA), Senator Collins (ME) and other congressional leaders thought they could use needed some help so they introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act.

You can read more specifics about the act here but the basics are "This strong bipartisan bill would place the reporting and decision making for cases of sexual assault, and other serious crimes that are punishable by one year or more, outside of the victim's chain of command and in the hands of a trained military prosecutor".   For example, this would mean that the women whom Commander Maestas was harassing and making uncomfortable with his inappropriate text messages wouldn't have to report the sexual harassment to him, which would be a good thing since he probably wouldn't be too keen on reporting himself to his next in command. Sounds like giving the men and women who bravely serve in the military the power to report cases of sexual misconduct without fear of punishment and more harassment by their superiors is an obvious good choice, right? The American Legion and the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), among many others, seem to think it does. 

But who cares what everyone thinks! Since we live in a world where issues that affect women more than men are typically decided upon by old men the Military Justice Improvement Act has been blocked and replaced with a different version that would still keep the reporting of sexual abuse in the chain of command (since that's the way it's always been done, said a bunch of old geezers) unless the chain of command refuses to prosecute a case. Perfect! Because if it ain't broke, don't fix it...or if it is broke, just wrap some masking tape around it until it breaks again and again and again - problem solved!

What else has this SoCal feminist been reading lately?

The ACLU chapter of San Diego demands transparency in cases of abuse by border patrol agents.

A sliver of good news about global warming.

The Boy Scouts are being sued by a San Diego Army doctor on allegations of sexual abuse.

Today's tears of joy: A Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton surprises his daughter in Chicago for her high school graduation. "A man's character is not measured by his success but by who his children are; you made me a man of great character". Swoon.

California seeks to criminalize revenge porn is news about something I can't believe isn't already criminalized.

Hundreds of millions of dollars could be set aside for school safety in San Diego since mass shootings at schools are a thing now. 

The LA branch of Educators 4 Excellence want a pay-for-performance initiative  placed in schools since, you know, teachers are lazy and not already working their butts with little support to increase academic achievement. 

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