Four victims of sexual assault in the military testified before Congress yesterday, in the Senate's first look at the topic in nearly a decade, reports the Los Angeles Times. BriGette McCoy described being sexually harassed—after being raped twice, by two different soldiers in her unit. "It even starts at recruitment," said the former Army specialist. "We have quite a few of our men and women that are being raped and sexually harassed during the recruitment process." The three women and one man who testified described how being assaulted ruined their careers and that attempts to report the crimes were met by disbelief and pressure to keep quiet. Advocates recommended creating an independent body for reviewing sexual assault charges, to take the decision making out of the hands of senior officers.
"I no longer have any faith or hope that the military chain of command will consistently prosecute, convict, sentence, and carry out the sentencing of sexual predators in uniform," testified McCoy, according to CNN. Of an estimated 19,000 instances of sexual assault or harassment in the military in 2011, only 2,439 were formally reported and just 240 proceeded to trial. About 10,700 of those cases involved male victims."The culture of victim blaming and retaliation while failing to punish the perpetrator must end," said a former petty officer who was raped when he was 20, then "misdiagnosed with a personality disorder" and discharged. (Read more US military stories.)