Heard on the Hill

Scarred But No Longer Scared

Reps. Bruce Braley and Jackie Speier speak with Protect Our Defenders members as they deliver letters thanking the 125 co-sponsors of Speier's Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A cadre of sexually mistreated warriors brought their very personal battle to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, huddling with Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) to champion changes in the handling of military rape.

The morale-killing crisis is exhaustively chronicled in the film “The Invisible War,” an unflinching look at sexually abused service members who, until now, had been kept at bay by bureaucracy and indifference.

Speier introduced the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act last fall. The bipartisan bill, which aims to create autonomous oversight of reported rapes, has 125 co-sponsors. Protect Our Defenders ushered the ex-military and active duty “survivors” to the Hill and armed them with thank you letters for all the STOP Act supporters and urgent pleas to others to sign on.

Marine Lt. Elle Helmer told Speier that she was tagged with a personality disorder and shown the door after blowing the whistle on her attacker. She has since been discharged.

“My career was cut short by reporting a rape,” said Helmer, who appears in the documentary.

Army Intelligence Analyst Rebecca Johnson-Stone said she suffered permanent brain damage as a consequence of her assault. Her attacker, meanwhile, has relocated to Hawaii.

Former Sonar Technician Second Class Jenny McClendon suggested the top brass’s penchant for sweeping these horrific crimes under the rug promotes a threefold financial loss: unemployed victims, protected violators and career creeps.

“We’re paying rapists ... and mine’s going to get a retirement check,” McClendon argued.

Speier denounced the system as fostering “serial sexual predators” and pledged she’d look into helping ousted victims seek full reinstatement. “We’re going to work on that. That’s our next thing,” she assured Helmer.

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