On Friday, May 31, 2013, explosive allegation that a female midshipman was sexually assaulted at a party last year surfaced. These allegations increased the scrutiny the military already faces over how aggressively sexual assault cases are pursued. The incident took place at a football house off campus. The female midshipman was passed out drunk during the time currently under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The events of that night were learned from friends of the midshipmen as well as from social media sites on which the individuals currently under investigation posted accounts of having intercourse with her while she was unconscious. One of the three football players instructed the female midshipmen not to cooperate with Naval Investigators; and for an entire year she listened to his instruction. However, she began to take steps in obtaining justice this year, beginning with seeking Susan Burke for her legal representative, as sexual assaults plague the military and the Obama Administration.
Susan Burke is extremely experienced in handling sexual assault cases and is currently working to urge congress to change the hands, by which sexual assault cases pass through before going to trial, from that of legally uninformed commands to legally educated military prosecutors. The Senate’s Armed Forces Committee will be holding a meeting Tuesday about the proposal concerning the handling of sexual assault cases. Of course, the Obama Administration will be interested in the outcome.
Sexual assault is a serious concern for civilian woman and will be an even bigger concern for women of the armed forces, although it seems many of the victims are not willing to speak up. Burke’s client received disciplinary action for drinking, and the Naval Academy community chastised her, whereas the football player’s identities were not released. They are being allowed to continue playing football with no disciplinary action at this time. The handling of this case could prevent victims who may be familiar with it from seeking justice.
The facts in this case are very disheartening considering that recently a pentagon survey stated that an estimated 26,000 service members reported having experienced unwanted sexual contact, although only 3,374 reports of sexual assault were recorded during the last year. The sexual assaults in the military were addressed by President Obama when he spoke to Naval Academy graduates last week. During his commencement address May 24th at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium he stated that, “It only takes the misconduct of a few to further erode people’s trust in their government.” Clearly, acknowledge that has plagued the U.S. military.
The manner in which sexual assault cases are handled beginning with whom has to the power to handle them. The placement of power in decision making as to which cases go to trial, removes the constitutional guarantee to be fairly heard by the government before having life liberty or freedom taken from them. These women may very well be having their lives taken from them if they are disciplined or even discharged over pursuit justice. Sexual assault is a serious matter and should be treated as such, no matter what your occupation is. It would be prudent for the Obama administration to get ahead of this situation in order to prevent a lasting stain on America’s armed forces.
By Casey King