Claire McCaskill Responds to Critics of Her Efforts to Combat Military Sexual Assault
Update below: Last month, Senator Claire McCaskill, who has been outspoken about the problem of sexual assault in the military, faced accusations that she is leading a "war on men" from a conservative Wall Street Journal columnist. And this week, she's responding to the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, who calls sex assaults in the military a "pseudo-crisis" in an editorial.
via Facebook Claire McCaskill.
McCaskill fired off a statement yesterday -- on view below -- slamming Kristol's comments, but that's not the only commentary on this topic she is addressing.
On A7 of yesterday's Post-Dispatch, a half-page advertisement goes after McCaskill for her work on this very issue. The critic behind the ad, however, is a military rape survivor.
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The ad is sponsored by Washington, D.C., advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, a victims' advocacy organization, and features a letter from Terri Odom, a St. Louis resident who says she was "violently raped and left for dead by a superior" when she was serving in the military 26 years ago.
In the letter, Odom says she was threatened with arrest and discharged from the military when she insisted on reporting the crime.
via Facebook Claire McCaskill.
"I still grieve over the loss of a career serving my country, simply because I tried to report a violent crime," she writes.
Here's the headline on the ad and the photo that comes along with it (full scan on the next page):
Odom also says she is a "great admirer and a loyal supporter" of McCaskill.
The letter is demanding that the senator support the creation of a "professional, independent, impartial military justice system."
A spokesman for McCaskill tells Daily RFT that the office doesn't have additional comment specifically on this advertisement beyond what the senator said in an interview yesterday with the Post-Dispatch (in today's A1 story). She told the paper she was "stunned" by the ad portraying her as a roadblock to efforts to curb sexual assaults in the military and said she remains convinced that the reforms she helped to engineer would be more effective than an alternative plan seeking to remove these prosecutions from the chains of command in the service branches.
"I would never be advocating for this if I didn't believe with every fiber of my being that this would be more protective of victims and result in more and better prosecutions," McCaskill, a former prosecutor, told the paper.
The senator and her allies on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the paper explains, champion provisions that would remove commanders' powers to dismiss court martial convictions for rape and sexual assault. The proposal in a pending defense bill would also make retaliation against a victim a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, however, supports a system of independent military prosecutors, as the P-D advertisement champions. The paper writes in its story today:
"I am completely convinced there will be fewer prosecutions and more retaliations if we go the route she (Gillibrand) is advocating," McCaskill said. "It's been frustrating because every argument they've made, when we meet it factually they kind of shift to another one."
McCaskill added that everybody has a right to his or her own opinion, including Terri Odom, the victim who is speaking out against the home-state senator she calls her hero.
"If she would have called, I would have loved to visit with her about it because I think if I would have talked to her, she'd get it," McCaskill said.
Continue for the full P-D ad, a statement from Protect Our Defenders and McCaskill's response to Kristol.