As the first blossoms of spring emerge, we will get a glimpse of which direction the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military is taking. By Memorial Day, the 90-day review will give us more answers.
The Commission will consist of current and former military leaders, advocates and experts on the crimes of sexual assault. The effort is under the guidance of Lynn Rosenthal who has a long, strong track record as an advocate for survivors of gender violence.
Survivors and their supporters have insisted for years that any involvement in cases of military sexual assault be removed from control of their Chain of Command.
Civilians glaze over when they hear that because they aren’t sure what it means.
At its simplest, it means most young troops don’t want the Chain of Command, their bosses, superior officers, making decisions about how sexual violence crimes are addressed. It is assumed there will be a conflict of interest by senior officers adjudicating the alleged assault.
On the other hand, senior leadership wants to keep all criminal issues in their control. Opposing that, is the position of many advocates, who want the military completely out of the picture.
In many ways we are still where we were 50 years ago. Today we have a few new laws, and military rules and regulations that still don’t work well.
For women, experiencing the ramifications of “power and control crimes” is a daily part of living. March 8 is International Women’s Day and the discussions of intersectionality and the many aspects impacting our lives will be bantered about, instead of being part of a daily conversation and education.
Because life is complicated, sexual violence itself is rife with intersectionality: race, age, gender, sexuality, culture, ethnicity, abilities, disabilities, language, class, opportunity and how they connect and intersect. All of this has to be part of the Commission’s work.
Survivors, both women and men, use different terms to address their feelings. Their pain and fear is ever-present, along with anger, shame and the gnawing in their guts that it is 2021, and the reality is that their lives are still being crashed around without guardrails and clear definitions.
Accountability and justice never seem in sight. Every time a new Commission is celebrated, the emojis are haunting laughter of what is not expected yet again.
The military seldom fires a boss. It packs them up and ships them off to somewhere else, and lets things die down while they wait for the other shoe to drop, or to quietly retire.
It is past time for a hard reboot on accountability and justice, along with the creation of a concrete plan that helps survivors, their careers, families and co-workers.
Diana D. Danis Lead Administrator, Service: Women Who Serve Advocate, Activist, Writer, Author, Feminist, Anti-Racist with a world view.