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A #MeToo Moment Emerges for Military Women After Soldier’s Killing

  • July 11, 2020

There have been fights on Capitol Hill over changes to the way these cases are adjudicated. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, have repeatedly tried to pass legislation that would give military prosecutors — rather than commanders — the power to decide which sexual assaults to try in the military.

A new twist in the debate is the inclusion of young, female veterans who attended elite service academies.

Representative Mikie Sherrill, Democrat of New Jersey, and Ms. Luria this month gave emotional testimony during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in support of a measure to create a pilot Office of the Chief Prosecutor at the academies for such incidents. Seven Republicans, many of whom were initially resistant, voted for the amendment to help it pass out of committee.

“I was harassed in the Navy and the academy,” said Ms. Sherrill, who went to the Naval Academy and served as a Navy helicopter pilot. “I have had so many friends come to me who tried to get justice who could not get it through the chain of command. I think Vanessa has just sort of brought so many of those emotions to a head.”

The surge of interest by nonmilitary women in the issue has been one of the most heartening developments to stem from the tragedy, advocates for Specialist Guillen say.

“We are now able to relate to the civilian community and say, ‘Yeah, guys, this is happening, this has always been happening,’” said Army Capt. Victoria Kositz, a West Point graduate. “I see a shift in the conversation from ‘You should have known going into the military,’ to ‘This is an outrage, let’s make sure it never happens again.’”

Captain Kositz said that while she was at West Point, a freshman student was raped in her room and, when it was reported, “Her cadet chain of command behind her back said she was a drama queen.” While serving at Fort Bragg, N.C., where she was the only woman in her platoon, a group of sergeants printed out a picture of her in a swimsuit from her Facebook account and passed it around. One of them cornered her at a social gathering at a bar and made an obscene remark, she said. She slapped him, and was given a letter of reprimand that, she said, “ruined my time at that post.”

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