FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: MELINDA SHELTON, 767; DIANE MINOR, x773
NOW Vice President-Membership Karen Johnson, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, is calling for Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., to resign from the congressional task force investigating allegations of sexual harassment throughout the U.S. military. Johnson questioned Buyer's impartiality and cited his present military status as basis for possible conflict of interest.
"When a person is still in the military, as Rep. Buyer is, his or her first loyalty is to the military," said Johnson, a decorated Vietnam-era veteran. "He is an officer in the Army Reserve and a link in the chain of command that has failed to protect female soldiers from sexual harassment and abuse. Rep. Buyer is also a product of The Citadel, a state-supported military school that ferociously resisted admitting women at all and now is under FBI investigation for harassment of its female cadets."
Johnson said military leadership has lacked the will to enforce zero tolerance for sexual harassment and misconduct. "Consider the case of two U.S. soldiers in Bamberg, Germany, who last month received less than honorable discharges for reportedly having sex with a 12-year-old military dependent, as opposed to being court martialed and imprisoned," she said, referring to a case to be reported in tomorrow's edition of Stars and Stripes.
"As a female who was in uniform 20 years, I experienced sexual harassment on more than half a dozen occasions -- twice from chaplains -- and counseled other military women who were harassed," Johnson said. "Accusers often are talked out of filing a complaint or are intimidated into silence and are retaliated against by superiors and peers for reporting offenses."
Johnson cited a 1995 Department of Defense study in which 78 percent of the military women who responded reported sexual harassment by military personnel. Recent investigations at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and other military installations represent "the tip of the iceberg and are not surprising to female veterans," she said.
"To establish integrity in the process, a reporting and investigative system outside the military chain of command must be created. Rep. Buyer is not an outsider," Johnson said.
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