When former Army Specialist BriGette McCoy entered the military at age 18, she quickly discovered something that a recent Pentagon report now proves: a U.S. servicewomen is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than to be killed by an enemy. In fact, the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office (SAPRO) estimates that one in every three women in the military will become the victim of sexual assault.
McCoy told members of the Senate Committee on Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee Wednesday that while on her very first assignment serving the U.S. Army, she was raped. It was just two weeks before her nineteenth birthday. She remained silent about the assault for years.
“Going into the testimony, I was not sure if my voice would be heard, if the voices of other men and women who had been sexually assaulted and raped would be heard,” McCoy told msnbc’s Richard Lui on Friday. “Coming out of it, I felt much more confident about my voice being heard, but I’m still a little bit concerned about whether or not we’re going to move the process out of the chain of command.”
During Wednesday’s testimony, McCoy revealed that she was raped twice, and harassed and sexually assaulted throughout her years of service. In one case, McCoy says a female comrade convinced her to file a report. McCoy testified that the report went virtually ignored. As for the formal apology she had asked for: McCoy says her assailant rolled down his car window as he drove by one day and shouted, “Sorry.” McCoy testified she later faced retaliation within the ranks after speaking out.
McCoy said Wednesday that victims often receive ”less than honorable discharges and personality disorders on their records, further hindering them from applying for medical treatment and medical claims.”
“I’m not the only one who goes through that,” McCoy told Lui on Jansing & Co. Friday. “There are many men and women who are, right now, as we speak, going through this very same thing. Nothing has changed.”
But change could be in the works. Pentagon Chief Chuck Hagel is calling for a review of military policy, and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Claire McCaskill, Jeanne Shaheen and others are calling for policy change.
McCaskill pointed to the case of General Craig Franklin, a commander of the Third Air Force in Europe, who overturned the charges against fighter pilot James Wilkerson after a military jury convicted Wilkerson of sexual assault and charged him with a one year jail sentence in November. Last week, an Air Force General overturned a fighter pilot’s sex assault conviction–a power granted under military law.
“With a stroke of a pen last week, a general dismissed charges against him,” McCaskill testified last week. “My heart is beating fast, I am so upset about this. I question now whether that unit, that man returns to–whether there’s any chance a woman who is sexually assaulted would ever say a word because what that general just said is, that jury’s decision doesn’t matter.”
McCoy echoed that concern on Jansing & Co. Friday.
“Most times, the people in the chain of command are the perpetrators,” McCoy said. The Pentagon estimates that 14% of sexual assaults within the military are actually reported.
McCoy said she hopes attention on the issue will spark change.
“There are so many people that have been working diligently to move this forward,” McCoy told Lui. “I’m hopeful that more people will come along, more public citizens will say ‘We need to stop this. We need to do something.”