FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: DIANE MINOR, 202-331-0066 x773; LISA BENNETT-HAIGNEY, 719
Mired in scandal and caught with a dysfunctional response system, the Army has made the mistake of pointing a threatening finger at Brenda Hoster and the other brave women who have come forward to report sexual misconduct and assault by the Army's top enlisted man, Sergeant Major Gene McKinney.
"We again insist that the sexual history of women who file charges of harassment and rape is irrelevant," said NOW Vice President-Membership Karen Johnson, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, referring to the defense attorney's probing into Hoster's personal relationships as she testified against McKinney in the preliminary hearing. "NOW strongly objects to this line of questioning, just as we did when Bob Bennett suggested that Paula Jones would face inappropriate personal scrutiny in her case against President Clinton."
Johnson said that NOW is dismayed, but not shocked, by the tactic McKinney's attorney used against Hoster on the stand, implying that she and a former female roommate were intimate. "Lesbian-baiting is used to portray women as man-haters who make up stories; it is used to discredit the woman's testimony and to scare away other women from reporting abuse. In the military this threat has extra ammunition, because it can also mean losing your job, your salary, your pension."
Johnson cited the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network study Conduct Unbecoming, which details how the threat of being labeled a lesbian, whether true or not, is also used to punish women for refusing men's advances or to coerce them into naming others as lesbians. The power of lesbian-baiting on women's military careers is demonstrated in the facts: In 1996, women made up 41 percent of those discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," three times their presence in the service.
"The issue is not Brenda Hoster's personal life; the issue is whether McKinney is guilty of the crimes he has been charged with by five different women. We hope that these personal invasions will not be repeated if McKinney is brought to trial." Johnson said.
Link to this release at http://www.now.org/press/07-97/07-31-97.html
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