Richmond Region LULAC Council 4614 stands in solidarity with ~OUR SISTERS KEEPER~ #OurSistersKeeper efforts in Hampton Roads this weekend. August 1, 2020 at Huntington Park, Newport News, VA at 2 p.m.
See you in Newport News on Saturday!
OUR SISTER’S KEEPER MARCHES NATIONALLY TO PROTEST MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA (MST)
The tragic death of Army PFC Vanessa Guillen, who was brutally murdered on-base while serving at Fort Hood, Texas, has brought into stark focus our country’s failure to properly deal with the ongoing crisis of Military Sexual Trauma. MST affects thousands of women and men in the US Armed Forces every year, but only a small percentage of these crimes ever result in real consequences for those responsible. In response, the family of Vanessa Guillen are joining up with both active-duty and veteran members of all five branches of our military for a series of marches and protests scheduled to take place in over a dozen cities from coast to coast on Saturday, August 1, 2020. This larger event is being preceded by a preparatory event, which will occur the week before in Jacksonville, FL on Saturday, July 25, 2020.
The numbers are deeply disturbing: Out of approximately 500,000 active-duty military personnel, roughly 75,000 (or 15%) of these are women. One out of every three women will experience some form of MST during the term of their enlistment. Over 20,000 military personnel reported being the victims of rape, sexual assault, stalking, harassment or domestic violence just last year. Of those, only slightly more than 300 reports resulted in formal criminal action; only 105 of those resulted in an actual conviction. These trends are far worse than what we’ve seen among the general population.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of victims (including PFC Guillen) never report these crimes to the proper authorities, and the root causes are conditions that these events hope to force some improvement of. Some 76% of MST victims report that their attacker was someone above them in the chain of command, which raises issues related to workplace discrimination and abuse of power within the command structure. Many victims report being subject to further harassment and/or abuse in retaliation for speaking out; this has had a chilling effect, not only in terms of transparency in military justice, but also on recruiting, which is down among girls.
The organizers of these events are demanding key structural and procedural changes to the process by which MST cases are handled. This includes creating a database of sexual predators in the US military, integrating the Military Entrance Processing Station with the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), immediate passage of the Military Justice Improvement Act (S.1752), which has already lingered in the legislative system since 2013, as well as allowing victims to report crimes anonymously to civilian authorities. By implementing these changes, military brass can ensure that victims feel more comfortable speaking out and seeking treatment for their trauma, while also increasing their ability to effectively prosecute a category of crime that approaches the point of epidemic in the military, as well as the broader civilian community.
As previously stated, the initial event takes place at the University of North Florda in Jacksonville, FL on July 25, with the main rallies occurring on the following Saturday, August 1. There will be events in 19 cities and 11 states, and a virtual rally on Zoom; the events will also be linked via social media. The list of cities, and the lead organizers in each location, includes:
*Annapolis, MD (Washington DC): Maryland State House, Francis St & State Circle, Annapolis. Samantha Hawkins
*Augusta, GA: Washington Road. Lisa Wohlrab
*Centralia, IL: Bell Tower, Centralia Park. Brittany Brashear
*Chicago, IL: Humboldt Park, 1551 N. Kedzie Ave. Estefania Moreno Gibson
*Fort Wayne, IN: Angel Metroo,
*Greenville, OH: Greenville City Building. Susan Henry
*Jacksonville, FL: Hemming Park. North Florida Women Veterans
*Killeen, TX: Fort Hood Army Base. Katie Chorbak
*Manhattan, KS: Triangle Park, Anderson Ave. Marissa Peacock
*Newport News, VA: Huntington Park Rose Garden. Tamekiah Aguirre
*Sacramento, CA: Cesar Chavez Park, 10th Street. Alisha Jimenez
*Tacoma, WA: Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Shanele Williams
*Zoom Rally: Shelby Pearson
These events are being organized by Our Sister’s Keeper, a new group comprised of MST victims from bases all over the country. They are augmented by partners including Tikkun Chai Inter-National, BLM 757, VLM757 (Virginia), LULAC Herencia Council 4297 (Killeen, TX), VFW Post 3270 (Greater Beaches), the Chicago Activist Coalition for Justice, and the Duval County Veterans Council. We all care about our active-duty and veteran military, but some of our most vulnerable members need your help to find justice, and the peace they deserve. For more information, please contact Our Sister’s Keeper on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.