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Posted on Aug 17, 2006 Print this Article

STAGED SHAYS HEARING SCOLDS MILITARY ACADEMIES

On June 27 Elaine Donnelly and CMR Vice President Jack Yoest attended and submitted a statement for the record of a hearing billed with the sensational title, “Sexual Assault and Violence Against Women in the Military and the Academies.”

The hearing took place before a House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations chaired by Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT). It was a stretch for Shays’ subcommittee to host a hearing on the issue, but an aggressive female Democrat, Diane Farrell, is challenging Republican Shays for the second time in the November election.  The event, which was announced on Shays’ campaign website, appeared staged to showcase a star witness, former Air Force Academy cadet Elizabeth L. (Beth) Davis.

With Shays’ encouragement, Davis tearfully described sexual assaults and rapes she allegedly suffered at the Academy when she was a freshman. Davis said she was treated with callous indifference when she tried to file a complaint of rape, that upper class female colleagues warned her not to try, and that she was punished and dismissed instead of the man she accused.

Washington Post story (June 27), titled “Ex-Cadet: Little Has Changed at Academies,” failed to note that the events described by the emotional Ms. Davis occurred in 1999--seven years ago.  The Colorado Gazette had checked allegations made by Beth Davis and other former female cadets on the Oprah Winfrey Show in in December 2003, and reported that Air Force investigators had discredited most of them.  Davis, for example, told the Winfrey audience that she had been coerced into oral sex four times.  She didn't say that investigaors found e-mail messages showing "It appears victim acquiesced to subject's advances."  (May 16, 2004)

None of this mattered to Chairman Shays and his liberal colleagues Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Dennis Kucinich(D-OH), who accepted as completely true and contemporary every allegation made by witness Davis.  Calling her a "hero," they promised to have her back for more hearings.

Davis was accompanied by Christine Hansen, Executive Director of the Miles Foundation, and Delilah Rumburg of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, who also co-chaired the Defense Task Force that produced a controversial Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Service Academiesin August 2005. Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt and other representatives of the military service academies had to wait to testify until late afternoon. The Air Force Academy’s representative did not respond to accuser Davis’s scathing charges, and she was not asked any questions about them.

This hearing was all about emotion and guilt wallowing, at the expense of the military academies. It was not about constructive information and strategies to encourage discipline and support for both women and men. Chairman Shays and other members of his panel seemed solely interested in playing up Ms. Davis’s emotional, seven-year old charges, which apparently were not substantiated. (The Air Force Academy issued no statement in response.)

Davis made a number of recommendations that have already been implemented at all of the academies since 2003, combined with several more that would be radical and counterproductive. She also called for more hearings, as if seven major investigations and reports on the subject that have been produced in the past three years were not enough.

Anyone alleging sexual abuse at the military academies has access to a huge array of support services.  These are not enough for professional “victim advocates” who are demanding more government contracts, prestige, and power to punish men who are considered innocent until accused.

CMR Defends Due Process

In her statement, posted here,Donnelly defended the service academies, and challenged prejudicial presumptions in the Task Force Report released in August 2005, which will be followed by more surveys and reports in the near future. She drew attention to the presumption that every person who makes an accusation is a genuine “victim,” even before it is known that a crime has been committed.

Donnelly criticized the core assumptions and prejudices of most victim advocate groups, which she said are frequently perceived as chauvinistic toward women and hostile toward men:

“Professional victim advocates frequently confuse one-sided allegations with substantiated crimes, excuse women of the consequences of their own high-risk behavior, demand punishment even when self-proclaimed victims do not report offenses to authorities, and are not satisfied with anything less than courts-martial and convictions, even when allegations are questionable.”

Mrs. Donnelly’s statement questioned problematic recommendations in the Defense Task Force Report, such as higher gender quotas to increase the number of women at the academies. The greater need, she said, is for male officers for the combat arms, such as the infantry and special operations forces.

Donnelly also questioned legal presumptions and actions that interfere with due process rights for persons accused, unnecessary changes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ),and excessive “sensitivity training” programs that heighten tensions between men and women at the Academies.

Her statement also countered Beth Davis's implication that academy women were virtually helpless if abused in any way. Quoting a 2005 Survey done by the Defense Department Manpower Data Center, Donnelly noted that allegations of sexual abuse have dropped at all of the service academies over the past 15 years, and that levels of awareness of what to do if a woman suffers assault range between 90 – 99%.

Inconvenient facts such as this are not as dramatic as a woman's tears, but they should be taken into consideration before Chris Shays or other members of Congress schedule future spectacles such as this.

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SP081706

Posted on Aug 17, 2006 Print this Article