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Stop Military Rape

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. SPEIER. I rise again today to talk about military sexual trauma. It's a cancer, it's ubiquitous, it's unabated, and regretfully, unaddressed.

There was Tailhook in 1991. There was Aberdeen in 1996. There were scandals at the military academies. There were hearings, there were reports, there were toothless recommendations. So here we are, again, with yet another scandal.

At this very moment, military training instructor Luis Walker stands before a court martial for raping and assaulting recruits at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Walker's job is to train freshly minted new Air Force recruits, many of them still in their teens. In all, there are 28 charges against him and 10 victims. Walker is a sexual predator.

On Tuesday, a victim testified that right after graduating from boot camp, Walker approached her while she sat outside on a bench waiting for a bus that would take her to technical training school. Walker came up and ordered her to get some bleach from a supply room, and then he followed her. Once inside, he closed the door and took off his training instructor's hat. ``I'm not here for bleach, am I,'' she asked. While Walker had intercourse with her on a couch, she wondered, ``My God, I hope he has a condom on.''

On Wednesday, another victim testified that while on laundry detail one day, Walker showed up and told her to follow him to get some towels, but to wait 5 minutes so the surveillance cameras would not capture them going up together. Once inside a dorm, he pulled her into a flight office, kissed her, and told her to perform oral sex on him. She said she did what she was told.

Walker's defense attorneys argue that because the women never forcefully resisted, the sex was consensual. The defense also argues that because the women never came forward to report the incidents, they must not have felt victimized.

If this happens in any high school in this country--if the prized English teacher, band instructor, or football instructor had sex with his student, we would be outraged and we would demand action. That teacher would be fired. Yet at Lackland, where some of the recruits are just 18 or 19 years old, we rationalize the behavior of the perpetrator and we blame the victim. Apparently, we have a different definition of zero tolerance for sex offenders in the military world than we do for them in the civilian world. What does zero tolerance mean in the military? Is that just a catchphrase?

The 35,000 Air Force recruits who funnel through Lackland each year are mostly confined to the base for 6 1/2 weeks of training. They get one 3-minute phone call once a week. Recruits live and breathe basic training and follow each and every order of their instructor. One rape victim at Lackland said, ``Nothing a military training instructor says ends with a question mark.''

Walker is not the only predator charged at Lackland. Seven additional training instructors have been charged with sexual misconduct with trainees. At least another five are under investigation. One instructor, Staff Sergeant Craig LeBlanc, bragged about his conquests to his colleague, who waited a month before he reported the incidents. Out of loyalty, the colleague stayed quiet. Once he finally reported LeBlanc's misconduct with recruits, that instructor was ostracized by fellow training instructors for being a tattletale. Is this really a culture of zero tolerance?

Congress needs to investigate and to hold an independent hearing on the widespread sex abuse at Lackland Air Force Base. In the last 3 years since
Luis Walker started working at Lackland, roughly 21,000 female airmen have cycled through basic training. Have they been interviewed by investigators to determine if they, too, have been raped and sexually assaulted at Lackland? How widespread is this epidemic?

At Lackland, out of the 31 identified victims, only one has reported the crime. Why are victims scared to come forward? Internal investigations will not get to the bottom of this. Congress needs to act. I called for a hearing in June, and received no response. Last week, I was joined by a bipartisan group of 77 Members of Congress calling for a hearing. We've received no response. I'm sick of waiting for action. The 19,000 members of our military who are raped each and every year deserve better than catchphrases. They deserve justice.

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