November 5, 2012 — Women who were sexually assaulted while serving in the Air Force say the Pentagon's efforts to deter abuse and discipline offenders have not fully addressed the problem, the New York Times reports.
Susan Burke -- an attorney representing women who have filed a series of lawsuits against the Pentagon alleging an ongoing failure to address sexual assaults -- said that she has been contacted by 500 additional service members seeking help since the lawsuits began last year.
Although the Pentagon has announced efforts to curb sexual assault, many survivors are skeptical. Air Force Sergeant Kimberly Davis said that after she reported a rape at Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York, officers -- including one assigned to handle sexual assault cases -- attempted to cover up the report. "The sexual assault program in the Air Force is a joke," she said.
Sgt. Jennifer Smith, who filed a formal complaint against the Air Force last month, said she decided to come forward about being assaulted after learning that senior officers were involved and tolerated improper behavior by elite fighter pilots. "I learned quickly that the enlisted females who do well are the ones who keep their mouths shut. It's a career ender to come forward," she said (Risen, New York Times, 11/2).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
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