Pressure is mounting on Capitol Hill for a meaningful answer to the crisis of sexual assault in the U.S. military. In response, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) hosted a press conference Thursday to promote legislation that would remove from the chain of command in the nation’s armed forces the reporting and adjudication of sexual crimes, along with other felonies that are not specifically military in nature.
Gillibrand also introduced her audience to three military veterans who said they suffered punishment from the military when they reported having been the victims of sex crimes perpetrated against them by their comrades.
Jennifer Norris, a former sergeant in the Air Force Reserve, was accompanied to the press conference by a service dog who, she says, assists her with the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) she experiences because of assaults by four different perpetrators during her military career. (You can read her harrowing story here.) Norris’ military career ended, she writes, when her security clearance was revoked for having a PTSD diagnosis. Today she works as a victim advocate at the Military Rape Crisis Center, a non-profit organization that offers support to those who suffer sexual abuse while serving in the military.
As she sat in the front row at the press conference, Norris’ eyes began to overflow with tears, causing Sen. Barbara Boxer, who was then at the podium, to remark, “I hope those are tears of hope.”
Norris affirmed that they were, saying that she was moved because she never thought she’d see the day when such as change as that proposed by Gillibrand could take place.