,” you will learn about recent civil cases filed after sexual violence by all types of assailants: Boy Scout leaders, clergy and religious instructors, doctors, Uber drivers, entertainment moguls, massage therapists, restaurant employees, school employees and students, security guards, and sports coaches.
But here’s what you won’t find in that 50-page report: a single case brought by a servicemember. That the nearly 15,000 (women and men) members of the military who are sexually assaulted each year, sometimes more than once.
In every other instance of sexual violence, civil cases can be filed to help ease the financial burdens of an assault, expose abusers and provide a forum to hold perpetrators directly accountable. But if you are a servicemember, who pledged to die for your country and was raped while doing so, there is almost nothing you can do about it.
We have written about this before, but there are good reasons to remind us of the issue again, not the least of which is the change in Congress. It is up to Congress to fix this, and by “this,” we mean the Feres doctrine.
Feres is a 69-year-old policy – created out of whole cloth by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1950 – which bars U.S. military personnel from suing the government for personal injuries suffered while they are in the armed forces. It applies even in the case of a sexual assault. Read more about Feres and in this great new article, , by Professor Andrew F. Popper of American University’s Washington College of Law.
Dwight Stirling, the CEO of the Center for Law and Military Policy (CLMP) about the injustice of this law shortly after Senator Martha McSally (AZ-R), the first female pilot to see combat, recently said she had been raped by her commanding officer. this would be a priority issue for her. Writes Military Times,
[T]he panel’s guiding focus will be to tackle “critical issues that impact not only our service members but their families who also bear the burden of sacrifice and commitment to our country.”…
[T]he Feres Doctrine debate could lead to some of the most dramatic military policy changes to come out of Congress this year. Speier has been following a handful of court challenges to the legal precedent in recent months, and is planning a hearing on the issue early this session.
This couldn’t come soon enough!