Sexual Assaults in Military Raise Alarm in Washington #Vaw


VAW

NYT, may 7, 2013

WASHINGTON — The problem of sexual assault in the military leapt to the forefront in Washington on Tuesday as the Pentagon released a survey estimating that 26,000 people in the armed forces were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 in 2010, and an angry President Obama and Congress demanded action.

The study, based on a confidential survey sent to 108,000 active-duty service members, was released two days after the officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programs for the Air Force was arrested and charged with sexual battery for grabbing a woman’s breasts and buttocks in an Arlington, Va., parking lot.

At a White House news conference, Mr. Obama expressed exasperation with the Pentagon’s attempts to bring sexual assault under control.

“The bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this,” Mr. Obama said in answer to a question about the survey. “If we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

The president said he had ordered Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “to step up our game exponentially” to prevent sex crimes and said he wanted military victims of sexual assault to know that “I’ve got their backs.”

In a separate report made public on Tuesday, the military recorded 3,374 sexual assault reports last year, up from 3,192 in 2011, suggesting that many victims continue not to report the crimes for fear of retribution or a lack of justice under the department’s system for prosecution.

The numbers come as the Pentagon prepares to integrate women formally into what had been all-male domains of combat, making the effective monitoring, policing and prosecuting of sexual misconduct all the more pressing.

Pentagon officials said nearly 26,000 active-duty men and women had responded to the sexual assault survey. Of those, 6.1 percent of women and 1.2 percent of men said they had experienced sexual assault in the past year, which the survey defined as everything from rape to “unwanted sexual touching” of genitalia, breasts, buttocks or inner thighs.

From those percentages, the Pentagon extrapolated that 12,100 of the 203,000 women on active duty and 13,900 of the 1.2 million men on active duty had experienced some form of sexual assault. In 2010, a similar Pentagon survey found that 4.4 percent of active-duty women and fewer than 0.9 percent of active-duty men had experienced sexual assault.

Pentagon officials could not explain the jump in assaults of women, although they believed that more victims, both men and women, were making the choice to come forward. In the general population, about 0.2 percent of American women over age 12 were victims of sexual assault in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

In response to the report, Mr. Hagel said at a news conference on Tuesday that the Pentagon was instituting a new plan that orders the service chiefs to incorporate sexual assault programs into their commands.

“What’s going on is just not acceptable,” Mr. Hagel said. “We will get control of this.”

The report quickly caught fire on Capitol Hill, where women on the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed outrage at two Air Force officers who suggested that they were making progress in ending the problem in their branch.

“If the man in charge for the Air Force in preventing sexual assaults is being alleged to have committed a sexual assault this weekend,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, “obviously there’s a failing in training and understanding of what sexual assault is, and how corrosive and damaging it is to good order and discipline.”

Ms. Gillibrand, who nearly shouted as she addressed Michael B. Donley, the secretary of the Air Force, said that the continued pattern of sexual assault was “undermining the credibility of the greatest military force in the world.”

She and some other members of the committee are seeking to have all sex offenders in the military discharged from service, and she would like to replace the current system of adjudicating sexual assault by taking it outside the chain of command. She is particularly focused on decisions, including one made recently by an Air Force senior officer, to reverse guilty verdicts in sexual assault cases with little explanation.

 

Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who is also on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is holding up the nomination of that Air Force officer, Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, to be vice commander of the Air Force’s Space Command. Ms. McCaskill said she wanted additional information about General Helms’s decision to overturn a jury conviction in a sexual assault case last year.

Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, told the committee at the same hearing on Tuesday that he was “appalled” by the conduct and the arrest of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the Air Force officer accused of sexual battery on Sunday. The police say that Colonel Krusinski was drunk when he approached the woman in the parking lot and that the victim was ultimately able to fend him off and call 911.

Mr. Hagel called Mr. Donley on Monday evening to express his “outrage and disgust” over the matter, a Pentagon statement said.

Ms. McCaskill was particularly critical of Colonel Krusinski as well as the Air Force for placing him in charge of sexual assault prevention. “It is hard for me to believe that somebody could be accused of that behavior with a complete stranger and not have anything in his file,” she said.

While Mr. Hagel and others in the military seem open to changes to the system that allows cases to be overturned, they remained chilly to the idea of taking military justice out of the chain of command.

“It is my strong belief that the ultimate authority has to remain within the command structure,” Mr. Hagel said, which is almost certain to meet with objections as the issue continues to come under the scrutiny of the Armed Services Committee.

Under Mr. Hagel’s plan, the military would seek to quickly study and come up with ways to hold commanders more accountable for sexual assault. The chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force and the commandant of the Marines have until Nov. 1 to report their findings. Mr. Hagel also directed the services to visually inspect department workplaces, including the service academies, for potentially offensive or degrading materials, by July 1.

 

America’s Gender Gap in 2012 tied to Safety Net


By Samantha Kimmey

WeNews correspondent

Friday, November 9, 2012

Many pro-choice women won their Senate races Tuesday and pro-choice PACs say women punished anti-choice rhetoric. A leading gender-gap analyst says exit polling data suggests it’s still about the role of government.

Lady Gaga performs in Vancouver, Canada
A young woman turns in her ballot on Election Day 2012

 

Credit: Jason Pramas for Open Media Boston, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

(WOMENSENEWS)–The failed U.S. Senate candidacies of Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock and Missouri Rep. Todd Akin are widely seen as payback for the GOP-led “war on women.”

Both politicians became notorious for comments about rape and pregnancy that turned them into symbols of an extremist anti-choice agenda that in the past year began extending to the formerly safe subject of birth control.

“I think that directly affected their candidacies,” said Susan Carroll, senior scholar at the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

In Indiana, Mourdock won only 42 percent of female voters, a large gap from Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket, who won 52 percent of women in the state, reported the Christian Science Monitor. That data suggested that some Republican voters split their ticket to lodge a protest.

In Missouri, the percentage of women voting for incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, Akin’s opponent, increased on Tuesday compared to 2006, reported the Associated Press. Younger women and African American women supported McCaskill in large numbers.

But while abortion, contraception, pay equity and even Romney’s debate-night reference to “binders full of women” were significant in swaying female voters, Carroll said those issues do not form the primary national basis of the gender gap.

The real basis, she said, was differing outlooks between men and women on the role of government, with women more inclined to support social safety nets.

On Election Day, CNN exit polling found 55 percent of women and 45 percent of men voted for Obama, producing a 10-point gender gap; the second-largest ever, according to Carroll.

Yet in 2008, Obama won 56 percent of the women’s vote and 49 percent of the men’s vote, meaning that although the gap widened this year, Obama’s share of women essentially remained stable and he slipped among men.

Carroll said that data might suggest the women’s vote was unchanged this year. But she also noted that one could conclude Romney’s economic arguments swayed men, while “women weren’t buying into it.”

More Women in Congress

The election will bolster women’s numbers in Congress.

In January, the Senate will move from 17 to 20 women, as five new women go to D.C. while two–longtime Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas–retire.

Five Democratic women and one Republican woman–incumbent McCaskill and first-timers Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Mazie Hirono, Heidi Heitkamp and Deb Fischer–won their races.

In the House, there will be at least 77 women in 2013, up from 73, giving them 17.7 percent representation in the lower chamber.

While some women’s rights activists are celebrating the gains, Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, president and CEO of the Washington-based Women’s Campaign Fund, which supports pro-choice female candidates, curbed her enthusiasm, calling it “pathetic to be excited about 17 to 18 percent.”

After the “year of woman” in 1992, Bennett said it was widely assumed that the problem of too few women would “organically fix itself.” Since that didn’t happen, she stressed that it remained incumbent upon the women who won to encourage far more women to run for office.

“Research shows that you need to have at least 30 percent of women in the room in order for them to be able to collectively make a difference,” she said.

Pro-choice activists could also take satisfaction in the outcome of some races for the U.S. House of Representatives.

In New York, longtime anti-abortion rights activist Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle lost to Dan Maffei.

In Illinois, Rep. Joe Walsh–who said during his campaign that he opposed abortion even in the case of the mother’s life because “you can’t find once instance” when that happens – lost to military veteran Tammy Duckworth.

The Women’s Campaign Fund’s Bennett said that anti-choice rhetoric has been growing since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, “which made legislators feel pretty safe coming out in the way they did in this election cycle.” Bennett expects the fallout of the elections to curb anti-choice rhetoric. Whether the GOP will back off anti-choice legislation at the state and federal level is another matter, she says, that “remains to be seen.”

‘Thrilled About Election’

“MomsRising was thrilled about the election,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, president of MomsRising, a nonprofit advocacy group focusing on issues like paid sick leave, parental leave and health care. “Our issues — health care, access to health care, access to reproductive health care — were heard. Fifty-six percent of voting moms cast ballot for Obama,” she said, citing Fox News exit polls.

“I think that this election cycle, more than any I’ve seen in my 20-plus years in politics, truly defined how extreme the anti-choice side has become,” said Beth Shipp, political director of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Women “rejected Republican backwards looking agenda,” said Jess McIntosh, spokesperson for EMILY’s List, the Washington PAC that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women.

But those groups didn’t just rely on the zeitgeist during the campaign; they also spent plenty of money for each of their victories.

“We had our largest independent expenditures in organizational history,” McIntosh said.

Independent expenditures rose significantly due to the impact of super PACs. EMILY’s List super PAC arm, Women VOTE! spent over $7 million.

The PAC itself spent over $30 million this election cycle–more than the roughly $27 million it spent in 2010 but less than the $35 million spent in 2008.

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s independent expenditure arm spent $1.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, compared to $525,000 in 2010. The organization told Women’s eNews that it spent about $3.3 million in all.

The group also identified potential female pro-choice Obama “defectors,” or those who voted Obama in 2008 but were no longer strong supporters, in 25 battleground counties. The organization then worked to persuade these women to vote for the president through a mixture of phone and email outreach, online advertising and cable advertising.

Married Prefer Romney

Broken down by marital status, a small national majority–53 percent — of married women favored Romney, while 67 percent of non-married women favored Obama, according to Washington Post exit polling.

Non-married women came out this election in larger numbers; 23 percent in 2012 compared to 20 percent in 2008.

Democrats picked up about seven House seats –far below the 25 they needed to gain a majority, reportedThe Hill, meaning that the Republican Party maintains control of the House.

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Shipp said of the House elections and pro-choice candidates, “We knew it was not going to be a watershed election,” but that gains were made, arguing, “We did make some significant gains with pro-choice candidates.”

In fact, some of them defeated pro-choice Republicans on Tuesday. Moderate Rep. Judy Biggert, representing Chicago’s southwest suburbs, lost after serving in the House since 1999 to NARAL-endorsed Bill Foster. In New Hampshire, Ann McLane Kuster beat Rep. Charlie Bass–a rematch from 2010, when Kuster lost.

“We are devastated at the loss of Scott Brown in the Senate and our good friends Judy Biggert and Mary Bono, Charles Bass and Robert Dold and Nan Hayworth . . . they were all stalwarts for our cause,” Ann Stone, founder and chair of Republicans for Choice, said in an email interview.

Stone added that, “Several of these pro-choice warriors were wrongly portrayed as not being pro-choice or not pro-choice enough . . . that is disgraceful . . . For them to stand up for this principle in a party which is hostile to them takes a hell of a lot more courage than a Democrat doing so in their party.”

Samantha Kimmey is a writer focusing on women and politics this election season.

 

America elections – Winning #Obama


#winning

Posted by Melissa McEwan at Wednesday, November 07, 2012, at http://www.shakesville.com/
image of First Lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden onstage at the Team Obama victory rally last night, raising their arms in celebration as red, white, and blue confetti falls around them
WIN: President Barack Obama was reelected.

WIN: Relatedly, terrible plutocrat Mitt Romney lost.

WIN: Voters in Maryland, Maine, and Washington (projected) break a 32-state losing streak and legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.

WIN: Voters in Minnesota vote down a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

WIN: The 113th Congress will have a record number of female senators: 20. Sixteen of them are Democrats; four are Republicans.

WIN: Elizabeth Warren (MA) is one of them. Elizabeth Warren won.

WIN: Mazie Hirono (HI) is also one of them. She is the first Asian American female senator!

WIN: Tammy Baldwin (WI) is also one of them, defeating popular Republican Tommy Thompson in the Wisconsin Senate race, making her both Wisconsin’s first female senator and the first openly gay member of the US Senate. Said Baldwin: “I am well aware that I will have the honour to be Wisconsin’s first woman US senator, and I am well aware that I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate, but I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference. But in choosing me to tackle those problems the people of Wisconsin have made history.”

WINClaire McCaskill (MO) is also one of them, defeating the loathsome anti-choice rape apologistTodd Akin.

WIN: In Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly beat the loathsome anti-choice rape apologist Richard Mourdock in their race for the US Senate.

WIN: In Washington, Democrat Suzan DelBene beat the loathsome anti-choice rape apologist John Koster in their race for seat in the state congress.

WIN: In Illinois, Tammy Duckworth beat the loathsome anti-choice rape apologist Joe Walsh in their race for the US House of Representatives. Duckworth, who lost both legs serving in Iraq, is the first female war veteran with disabilities elected to the US Congress.

WIN: US voters chose women of color, women with disabilities, women who are gay, pro-choice women, and rejected men who minimize rape.

WIN: New Hampshire became the first state in the nation to have an all-female Congressional delegation: Two female senators and two female representatives. Their newly elected governor is also a woman.

WIN: Colorado and Washington voters legalized marijuana for recreational use. Massachusetts voters legalized marijuana for medical use.

WIN: A majority of US voters support legal abortion, and voted accordingly.

WIN: A majority of US voters rejected bigotry and reelected our African American President.

WIN: US voters rejected voter suppression efforts and often withstood long lines and shady disincentives to vote. vote. vote.

That is not a comprehensive list. And there were also some disappointments. Some state initiatives passed that are shitty. Indiana’s new governor is Mike Pence, and we certainly aren’t the only state who elected a gross conservative to a statehouse or Congress in a hard-won race.

But it was a big night. A big night for progress. A broad mandate.

I hope the President hears the roar of his progressive base. I hope he knows what a difference it made when he spoke out in favor of marriage equality. I hope he governs like a person who won because of people who expect more.

I hope we all muster the strength and sustain the will to urge him ever forward.