November 2011

The Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act
The STOP Act


Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco, San Mateo) introduced legislation on November 16, 2011 to dramatically reform how sexual assaults and rape in the military are treated (download bill summary.) Speier stated, “For too long the military’s response to rape victims has been: ‘take an aspirin and go to bed.’ We owe our brave women and men in the military a justice system that protects them, not punishes them when they become victims of sexual assaults and rape committed by other service members.”

“To end this needless injustice, I am proposing a legislative remedy and fully endorsing the website, Protect Our Defenders, which will provide the grass roots mechanics required to make our military leaders and Congress understand that what has been going on before their very eyes for decades is unconscionable and must be stopped. We owe our brave women and men in the military a justice process that protects them, not punishes them when they become victims of sexual assaults and rape.”




To visit the web site of Protect Our Defenders, click here.

And consider signing their petition demanding that Congress create a NEW method for reporting sexual assault in the military.


Congresswoman Speier has made over a dozen speeches to Congress on the topic of rape and sexual assault in the military, to view them on her web site, click here. Or view the videos on, here.

Helen Benedict has written a piece on the STOP Act and why it matters at the Ms. Blog. To read it, click here.


For a look at the media reports on The Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act — the  STOP Act, click the links below:

Sexual Assault in the Military: New Legislation Seeks to Alter Reporting Process,  ABC News,  November 17, 2011

Lawmaker Wants Military Rape Cases Shifted to New Office, Miami Herald, November 18, 2011

A Crisis in Our Military, Rep. Jackie Speier, Huffington Post,  November 17. 2011

Legislation Aims to Remove Rape Accusations from Military ‘Chain of Command,’   The Daily Caller,   November 18, 2011

Rep. Speier Wants New Office to Investigate Military Sexual Assaults, The Hill, November 17, 2011

Democrat Jackie Speier Introduces Military Rape Bill,  89.3 KPPC,   November 17, 2011

Congresswoman Jackie Speier on Military Rape (#12)


Congresswoman Jackie Speier gave her 12th floor speech on military rape and sexual assault today. She talked about Col. Michael Robertson who was convicted of 14 charges. His punishment? A $30,000 fine and 3 months in jail. He’ll be allowed to retire with full rank and benefits, but won’t be required to register as a sex offender. Indefensible!

On Thursday, November 17, 2011, Speier will introduce legislation and announce a campaign to combat sexual violence in the military. She will hold a press conference at 9:45 am ET at the National Press Club in Washington DC with Nancy Parish, President of Protect Our Defenders, and military rape victims.


For more information on the November 17th press conference, click here.

An Unlikely Journey:
How a Man From the Conservative Bible Belt Is Fighting Violence Against the World’s Women and Girls
November 8, 2011

The following is an excerpt from Hearts on Fire: Twelve Stories of Today’s Visionaries Igniting Idealism Into Action by Jill Iscol with Peter Cookson, available now from booksellers and at your local library.

Violence against women is a complex set of destructive, primarily male behaviors that include psychological and emotional abuse, forced marriage, son preference, honor killings, sexual harassment, trafficking, and violence against women in armed conflict.

Jimmie Briggs is the founder of the Man Up Campaign, a global initiative to stop violence against girls and women. He didn’t start life expecting he would dedicate himself to mobilizing the world’s youth in the cause of basic justice for girls and women.

But that’s what he did. And this is his story.

To read more about Jimmie Briggs’ story at the web site, click here.

To learn more about the Man Up Campaign, click here.

Women Testify Fort Bliss Colonel Touched Them


Chris Roberts
El Paso Times
November 9, 2011

A colonel described by friendly witnesses as “old Army” listened during his court-martial on Tuesday as women testified he had sexually harassed them in 2010 while commanding a combat hospital in Afghanistan.

Col. Michael Robertson commanded Fort Bliss’ 31st Combat Support Hospital at Camp Dwyer, a military base and airfield in the Helmand River Valley used by U.S. Marines. It was described as austere, with tent structures, cots for beds and latrine toilets. The hospital, which was built by the unit’s soldiers, is credited with saving numerous lives, because it is close to an area known for persistent and intense fighting.

To read the full story at the Las Cruces Sun-News web site, click here.

In this post, usmvaw offers information about some significant current events that address the ongoing problems of sexual harrassment, assault, and rape of women and men in the military.

The class-action lawsuit filed in February of this year by seventeen U.S. veterans against Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his predecessor Donald Rumsfield has been amended.

The lawsuit now lists twenty-eight plaintiffs.

The amended version is available in PDF format at the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) web site. To read it, click here.

On November 17th, the Military Rape Crisis Center will be joining Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-12) at the National Press Club in Washington DC for a press conference regarding Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Military.

Congresswoman Speier will announce legislation to address the systematic problem of sexual assault and harassment among our men and women in the military.

If you would like to attend this event, please RSVP to Congresswoman Speier’s office at 202.225.3531.

If you are an MST survivor and plan on attending, please also email

(Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Military Sexual Assault and Rape ‘Epidemic’


Sarah Lazare
October 20, 2011

Studies suggest as many as one in three female soldiers are raped
during their US military service.

“My experience reporting military sexual assault was worse than the actual assault,” says Jessica (a pseudonym for her protection), a former marine officer and Iraq veteran who left the military because of her command’s poor handling of her assault charges. “The command has so much power over a victim of sexual assault. They are your judge, jury, executioner and mayor: they own the law. As I saw in my case, they are able to crush you for reporting an assault.”

Jessica is joining a civil lawsuit bringing claims against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, charging that under their watch the military failed to adequately and effectively investigate rapes and sexual assaults within the ranks.

To read the full story on the Aljazeera web site, click here.

For more information on the Military Sexual Trauma Class Action Lawsuit mentioned above, click here.

Military Rape and Sexual Assault Class Action Lawsuit


Jaclyn Ries

On February 15, 2011, a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in which Susan L. Burke represented seventeen individuals as they sought justice against former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The lawsuit states that the defendants, Rumsfeld and Gates failed to investigate the plaintiffs instances of rape and sexual assault, failed to prosecute perpetrators, failed to provide an adequate justice system as required by Uniform Military Justice Act, and failed to abide by Congressional deadlines to implement reforms to stop rapes and other sexual assaults. The plaintiffs claim that “they have been directly and seriously injured by Defendants actions and omissions,” and seek justice and compensation.

This lawsuit provides vivid stories and details about how each individual dealt with military command, and how they failed to properly respond and handle the situation after the individuals reported their sexual assaults. Several times, command failed to keep the reports confidential and their assailants learned of the instance being reported, furthering the threats and escalating the violence. However, once the allegations were reported by an individual to command, often command would threaten them not to discuss the situation or how it was handled with anyone else. If they did, their career would be at risk.

Other times command would find a way to put the blame on the individual who reported it. For example individuals were accused of lying if their assailant denied the allegations and, they could be forced to sign forms stating that the sex was consensual when in fact it wasn’t, which for males has lead to them being dishonorably discharged. Other times the military would blame it on alcohol, or as in the case of Stephanie Schroeder, would tell individuals, “don’t come to me because you had sex and changed your mind.” Often times after the sexual assault was reported, assailants would be put in charge of the victims, assailants would be allowed to remain on active duty with minimal punishments for their actions, and command would fail to investigate, or even drop the cases.

For more information or to read the lawsuit text and the stories of the seventeen individuals, visit the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) website here.

If you are interested in contacting Burke PLLC about potentially participating in this lawsuit, click here.

Tonight on Women, War and Peace

The War We Are Living:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Anja Jerkovic 

PBS recently aired the first episode from Women, War, and Peace titled “I Came to Testify”, a story about the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the 16 women that helped make it happen.

“In one sense, they were victims;
but in another sense they were the strong ones,
they survived”.

On Tuesday, October 11th, PBS released the first episode to their 6-piece segment on Women, War, and Peace. The first of the series, titled: “I came to Testify” tells the story of 16 Bosnian women’s experiences during the Balkan war in 92’ and the tribunal that was created to prosecute war criminals involved in the rape, torture, and murder of thousands of innocent civilians. “I Came to Testify” focuses specifically on the stories of the 16 women who heroically stood on trial for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), in hopes to bring justice for those affected by the atrocities of the war. The ICTY was the first tribunal of its kind to individually focus on sexual assault, as well as the first war crimes court, an act that has paved the way for future cases on rape during wartime. The tribunal began in 1993, and as you can see from the website linked to the ICTY homepage below, continues on today. So far, 161 criminals have been indicted through ICTY and yet thousands more have gone unreported and unnoticed. The strength of the women in Bosnia to speak about and relive their experiences of sexual enslavement and sexual assault during Bosnia’s horrific war, regardless of the humiliation the criminals sought to harvest in their souls, is expressed beautifully in “I Came to Testify”. While I wish to give individual credit to every woman involved, all chose to keep their identities private and voices changed as to protect their identity from future attacks. The episode itself was heart-wrenching, yet tells a story the world needs to hear- a story that until now, has gone unnoticed.

You can watch the first episode here:

Vodpod videos no longer available.


or click the following link to view all of the episodes at the PBS web site, here.

Click the link below to search the UN’s website for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia which includes videos, court records, background information, and an ongoing, updated news section on the most recent trials within the ICTY.

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY-TPIY)

A Viewer’s Introductory Guide to Abigail Disney,
Producer of PBS’s Women, War, and Peace


Carly Toyer

Women, War, and Peace is a five-part documentary series to be featured on PBS, airing Tuesday nights at 11pm. The series will feature hour-long segments focusing on:

  1. Women who testified against rapist soldiers who used rape as a weapon in the 1990s war in Bosnia in I Came to Testify. October 11.
  2. Liberian women who protested and won peace during a civil war in 2003 in Pray the Devil Back to Hell. October 18.
  3. Three women in Afghanistan who organized to maintain women’s rights during peace talks with the Taliban in 2009 in Peace Unveiled. October 25.
  4. The effects of Colombia’s 40-year-old civil war on current day rural Colombia, and the women who live there in The War We Are Living. November 1.
  5. The idea that the domain of was and peace belongs to men, and extensive interviews with female figureheads, survivors, and peacemakers in War Redefined. November 8. ( 2011).

Women, War, and Peace will air publicly, with re-runs throughout each week and free online streaming at

This guide will introduce you to filmmaker and Women, War, and Peace’s prominent producer Abigail Disney’s background and previous works, and provide examples of important screenings of Women, War, and Peace.

About Abigail Disney

Abigail Disney is the daughter of Roy E. Disney of the Walt Disney Company. She earned her BA from Yale, her Masters in English Literature from Stanford, and a PhD in Philosophy from Columbia. ( )  As a filmmaker, she has focused on female activists and peacemakers, most notably in her film Pray the Devil Back to Hell, (to be featured as part of two in Women, War and Peace) which won best documentary at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. (

Abigail Disney’s Activist Affiliations

The Daphne Foundation: “The Daphne Foundation funds programs that confront the causes and consequences of poverty in the five boroughs of New York City and in Western Africa. We have a particular interest in grassroots and emerging organizations engaging their members in the creation and implementation of long-term solutions to intractable social problems.” (

The Global Fund for Women:  “We advocate for and defend women’s human rights by making grants to support women’s groups in five regions: Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa, Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Asia and Oceania and the Americas. Since its inception in 1987, the Global Fund has granted over $93 million to more than 4,400 women’s groups in 172 countries.” (

Women and Girls Lead: “Women and Girls Lead is a multiyear public media initiative to focus, educate, and connect citizens worldwide in support of the issues facing women and girls. Combining independent documentary film, television, new media, and global outreach partnerships, Women and Girls Lead amplifies the voices of women and girls acting as leaders, expands understanding of gender equity, and engages an international network of citizens and organizations to act locally and reach out globally.” (

Abigail Disney’s Previous Films

Sun Come Up (producer, 2011): “…an Academy Award nominated film that shows the human face of climate change. The film follows the relocation of the Carteret Islanders, a community living on a remote island chain in the South Pacific Ocean, and now, some of the world’s first environmental refugees.” (

Family Affair (producer, 2010): “… an uncompromising documentary by Chico Colvard, which explores the complexities of a family subjected to enormous trauma, the depths of suffering a parent can inflict on his own children and yet also the remarkable resiliency that some people can muster even in the face of all this. The film is a meditation on forgiveness, on grace, and on the capacity of the human spirit to find love and meaning under the worst of circumstances.” (

Playground (producer, 2009): “Sexual exploitation of children is a problem that we tend to relegate to back-alley brothels in developing countries, the province of a particularly inhuman, and invariably foreign, criminal element. Such is the initial premise of Libby Spears’ sensitive investigation into the topic. But she quickly concludes that very little thrives on this planet without American capital, and the commercial child sex industry is certainly thriving. Spears intelligently traces the epidemic to its disparate, and decidedly domestic, roots—among them the way children are educated about sex, and the problem of raising awareness about a crime that inherently cannot be shown. Her cultural observations are couched in an ongoing mystery story: the search for Michelle, an American girl lost to the underbelly of childhood sexual exploitation who has yet to resurface a decade later.” (

Pray the Devil Back to Hell (producer, 2008): “Pray the Devil Back to Hell chronicles the remarkable story of the courageous Liberian women who came together to end a bloody civil war and bring peace to their shattered country. Thousands of women — ordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters, both Christian and Muslim — came together to pray for peace and then staged a silent protest outside of the Presidential Palace. Armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions, they demanded a resolution to the country’s civil war. Their actions were a critical element in bringing about a agreement during the stalled peace talks.

A story of sacrifice, unity and transcendence, Pray the Devil Back to Hell honors the strength and perseverance of the women of Liberia. Inspiring, uplifting, and most of all motivating, it is a compelling testimony of how grassroots activism can alter the history of nations.” (

Screenings of Women, War, and Peace

Universities, community centers, and churches nationwide are holding screenings and discussions on Women, War, and Peace. To learn more about the impact that will be made by these screenings, browse through the following articles:

“Bosnian St. Louisans join discussion as PBS explores Women, War & Peace

“Enlightening Student Viewers”

“Women and Girls Lead in Community Screenings and on PBS”

To attend a screening near you, visit

Helen Benedict on the Private Wars of Military Women


“Award winning author and journalist, Helen Benedict, who testified twice before Congress regarding the issues of women in the military, is interviewed by Cindy Piester of Pulse TV and Maverick Media. Topics include, The Lonely Soldier, military sexual trauma, rape, and the new class action law suit against the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, and Robert Gates.”



Learn more about Maverick Media at the links below:

Maverick Media on Vimeo           Maverick Media Blog