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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Seeking to prevent sexual assaults and rape in the military, U.S. Rep. John F. Tierney continued an oversight hearing Wednesday at which a top Defense Department employee previously ordered not to appear before the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs testified about the situation.
Dr. Kaye Whitley, director of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, told the subcommittee the military has taken steps since 2004 to revamp its policies and investigate allegations. However, she noted that battlefield conditions can be complicated.
Whitley also cited a civilian study from 2002 that indicates most victims to not report the crime. The study said 18 percent of rapes are reported, 24 percent of attempted rapes, and 16 percent of sexual assaults.
“Sexual assault is not just a military problem. It is a societal problem,” said Whitley, adding that the military has over 200 sexual assault response coordinators in Iraq and Afghanistan to handle such cases.
Ingrid Torres and Mary Lauterbach testified before the subcommittee on July 31.According to Tierney, the subcommittee chairman, Torres was raped by the installation flight doctor at Kunsan Air Base while stationed in South Korea with the American Red Cross.
“She told us how she received different levels of care by various victim advocates and health specialists, including some who had little to no knowledge of the military’s own prevention and response procedures,” he said.
Torres had taken sleeping medication and was raped in her sleep. When she filed charges, she learned that civilians are not held to the same standards as military personnel.
Lauterbach, the mother of U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach, told the subcommittee she is still trying to get answers about her daughter’s rape and subsequent death by Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean.
“She also provided specific recommendations to improve the system for other potential victims and their families,” the congressman said.
Lauterbach testified that the Marines failed to act and protect her daughter following the rape, threatened her with a court-martial if the charge proved untrue, and ignored “red alert” incidents such as when the young woman’s brand new car was vandalized and when she was sucker-punched in the dark while walking home.
Maria Lauterbach’s charred body and that of her unborn child were found in Laurean’s backyard. Laurean has since been held in a military jail pending the outcome of the investigation.
“The goal of these hearings was to ensure that the Defense Department has adequate policies and oversight mechanisms in place to prevent, treat, and punish sexual assaults ? all matters Dr. Whitley has direct jurisdiction over in her Defense Department position,” Tierney said. he subcommitteereceived preliminary testimony from the Government Accountability Office on its in-depth, on-the-ground investigation into the Defense Department’s sexual assault prevention, response, and oversight efforts. Brenda Farrell from the GAO testified Wednesday on the final results of its investigation, which included specific recommendations for to the Defense Department that programs be standardized and given adequate funding and dedicated staffs. Farrell said the Department of Defense has a shortage of mental health care providers who would assist in such cases, and generally lacks guidance in implementing programs designed to prevent sexual assaults. Besides, some commanders do not support such programs, Farrell said.T
Tierney said Whitley was prohibited from testifying at the first hearing despite the Pentagon’s own admission that she is the single point of accountability for Department of Defense sexual assault policy. As a result of those orders not to appear, the subcommittee was forced to subpoena Whitley. Despite the subpoena, Whitley failed to show.
The order not to appear does not absolve Whitley from personal responsibility to comply