Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) have “opened a formal inquiry into the U.S. Coast Guard’s alleged lack of transparency and mishandling of dozens of sexual assault cases by high-ranking officials between 1988 and 2006,” reports News 8. We are grateful to these leaders for pursuing justice, digging into these alleged crimes, and holding people—especially those in power—accountable for their actions.
Deputy Director of the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Kenisha Farquharson, made the following statement at a press conference announcing the investigation.
I am pleased to be here with Senator Blumenthal, who has been a long-standing ally to survivors of sexual violence and who again and again steps up to keep the rights and dignity of survivors intact. I also want to extend gratitude to the Senator for his leadership in getting the US Senate to launch a formal investigation into the Coast Guard’s mishandling of sexual violence at the academy.
Six years past #MeToo, we are still lightyears away from being a state and a country, that believes survivors, that understands the lifelong impacts of victimization on every aspect of a survivor’s life, and that holds those who cause harm accountable for their actions.
Survivors often left the military and were forced to deal with the decades-long impacts of trauma, and those who caused harm ascended the ranks at the Coast Guard and in other military agencies. Not only did the academy ignore the behavior as it happened, they hid their knowledge of the full scope and depth of the problem. While those who caused harm should be held accountable for their behavior, we must also wrestle with the culpability of institutions whose actions, or in this case, inactions, further harmed those same survivors. This collusion between perpetrators of harm and the institutions they are a part of normalizes violence and leaves little recourse for victims.
It has been the bravery of survivors like Hope Hicks and Kimberly Young-McLear who brought attention to the harassment, bullying, and violence that is part of the culture in the military. But it should not take the media or survivors taking on the additional burden of being whistle-blowers for substantive change to happen. When institutions are more concerned with their reputation than the safety and well-being of individuals in their communities, trust in those institutions is broken.
The only way to rebuild trust is to take concrete steps to ensure that reports of sexual violence are thoroughly investigated and documented, action is taken to hold those who cause harm accountable, and policies are regularly updated to ensure institutional transparency and accountability. We will be following the Senate investigation and are here to support survivors impacted by sexual violence.