Last week, a panel of civilians and military personnel, both lawyer and non-lawyer, met behind closed doors at the Capitol to hear testimony from Elisha Morrow and Congresswoman Lois Frankel, D-Fla.
Morrow, a former Coast Guard recruit, was the victim of sexual assault at the hands of her commanding officer while at boot camp. At the hearing she described how she was made to clean the officer's quarters late one night on her hands and knees, while he proceeded to make lewd and disparaging remarks. The officer was never charged with rape; however, he was charged and convicted of the lesser crimes of maltreatment and adultery.
Morrow left the Coast Guard after only 14 months, and soon after she began penning letters to politicians in the hopes that she might protect those still serving in the military from what happened to her. Congresswoman Frankel immediately expressed her support of Morrow, and began advocating for a reform of the military sexual assault code.
Both Morrow and Frankel agreed that last week's hearing was a positive experience, with those in attendance expressing shock and horror at hearing Morrow's ordeal. "They asked good questions and it was evident they had given a lot of thought and discussion to the issue," said Frankel.
Pentagon statistics estimate that 26,000 sexual assaults occur in the military each year, and, of that number, only approximately 3,000 are ever reported.
Morrow and Frankel wish to expand the definition of rape and sexual assault in the military. "If somebody uses their authority to commit a sexual act upon another by using their position of authority they will be found guilty," said Frankel.
The pair is now waiting to hear recommendations on how to proceed by February.