Melissa Harris-Perry | January 26, 2013
>> there is a different combat for military women , and the fight against sexual assault when we return.
>>> the new expansion of combat roles was not the only message to come out of washington about women in the military this week. just one day before the defense department 's announcement, a hearing on capitol hill exposed a horrifying irony. even as we increase the opportunities for women to protect us from our enemies, our military has failed to protect women from being sexually assaulted while they serve. on wednesday, the house armed services committee held a hearing to review what the " washington post " has called quote, the potentially the worst sex scandal in the u.s. military since 1996 at the lackland air force base in texas. to date, 59 sexual assault survivors have been identified at lackland and 32 basic training instructors have been charged with crimes related to sexual misconduct , and the hearing revealed a culture of intimidation and fear and of retaliation that keeps the survivors from coming forward and showed that stories like this testimony from one of the survivors are all too common.
>> and the rape and the three different other predators who assaulted me. you are stuck. if you want a career, you don't want to say anything, because you get retaliated against, you get thrown out, you get beat up.
>> so i want the ask you about the connection of the one hand this decision about the combat and on the other hand this reality of sexual assault ?
>> i was extremely proud of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff , because of the ability for me to thrive, i had sexual harassment as part of my daily routine in the marine corps . and when i filed a complaint, and all of the things that general norris is talking about are true. and it is important that lackland is one base and the reason we know about that and the scandal is because of the horrific skacandal is because of fantastic reporting of military reporters around that base, be but it is happening at virtually every base and service branch, and the final thing i would say about that is that sexual assault is not a function of sex, and it is not about women either but almost as many men are sexually assaulted as women . over time , the numbers pan out evenly, 40% of the veterans being treated at v.a. hospitals around the nation for conditions related to military sexual trauma are men, and we cannot forget that this is not a women 's issue, but it is a military issue, and leadership issue. sgli
>> i appreciate your making that point, because there is little outcry about that situation, but there is, oh, there is this situation, and this is kathleen parker writing for the " washington post " where soldiers will see the 18-year-old girl next to them, and impact their decision making and it is so important to say, look, this is not about sex, but violence.
>> and i have to say, when i saw sexual assault happening in my own unit and reported it to senior officers like jen said, they swept them under the rug, and i as someone who had a fair amount of privilege as a company commander and captain, i was devastated that the senior off officers did nothing. the people who stuck up for the women who were being sexually assaulted in my unit were infantrymen, and leadership is not about gender, because the guys who stuck up for the women this these cases were infantrymen.
>> and leadership is the independent variable . in the end of the day , these things don't happen in units that are not well led, but they do happen in units that are poorly led. and the only way to fikts or eliminate it from happening is to make sure that the good people are the leaders and eliminate bad leaders.
>> how do you cultivate as a matter of institutions the kind of institution that does not allow these acts?
>> you have to do it at every level. it has to start at the top , and the people like general dempsey and others have to be on board to understand that leadership makes a difference and people have to be incultureated properly when you enter the service. and no matter how strong the top of the food chain is, a generation from now, we will be back to where we started from, because of the culture.
>> that is important, because culture change takes time and sustainability requires constant vigilance. one policy won't end discrimination against anyone in the military, and it is official policy of the military that they don't tolerate any sexual abuse of any kind. and that men and women will be paid the same, and look at how well that is working out. so it is not just about the policy, but equality takes more than that.
>> and more on what the issues of the military is and the kinds of engagement that we have around the world, thank you to anu, for being here, and the rest of you will be back for more. before we get to that conversation, i have a let toter to the supreme court and what it can learn from the pentagon when we come back.