ABC News on military sexual assaults

(I came to the ABC piece just yesterday; apologies to anyone who has already read it.)

In a July 31 story by Z. Byron Wolf, ABC News notes the murder of pregnant Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach and the wider story of sexual assault against women in the U.S. military. The news report, drawing on testimony given before he Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs - a panel of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - is titled “Sex Assaults Against Women in Military ‘Epidemic’”:

Mary Lauterbach, the mother of murdered pregnant Marine Maria Lauterbach, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the military must change the way it deals with sexual assault to avoid more tragedies like her own.

“I believe Maria would be alive today if the Marine system had been different,” her mother told a panel of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which held a hearing Thursday on sexual assault and rape in the military.

There were no representatives from the Marines at the hearing, and the head of the Pentagon office tasked with responding to the problem of sexual assault in the military was ordered by her superiors not to testify despite a subpoena from the committee.

The refusal of the Department of Defense to allow subpoenaed witness Dr. Kaye Whitley, director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, has been noted by activist and retired Army Col. Ann Wright writing for Truthdig, by Christy Hardin Smith of Firedoglake, and elsewhere. More from ABC:

Lawmakers could not ask [Whitley] to address the issue of sexual assault and what steps have been taken because Deputy Defense Undersecretary Michael Dominguez had barred Whitley from testifying, despite a Congressional subpoena.

Dominguez told the lawmakers he knew everything about the program and didn’t need Whitley’s input to answer their questions.

Dominguez was given a bipartisan dressing down on this point by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who chairs the Oversight Committee. “I don’t know who you think elected you to defy the congress of the United States,” he said.

Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., the ranking member, said he will support Waxman’s pledge to hold Whitley and Dominguez in contempt. They dismissed Dominguez without taking his testimony.

As the family of PFC LaVena Johnson continues to press Congress and the Army to investigate the possibility that LaVena died in connection with a sexual assault, the refusal of the military to address these crimes against women will come in for even greater criticism.

It should be noted that the chairman of the subcommittee’s parent, the House Oversight Committee - Representative Henry Waxman - is the named petitionee of a new public appeal for hearings on the LaVena Johnson case. This petition is authored by the advocacy group ColorofChange.

(Cross-posted at the LaVena website.)

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