Several whistleblowers and families of suicide victims alleged that the Department of Defense didn't take any action to resolve the gross misconduct.
The Department of Defense established a program to counter the prevalent rape culture and sexual assaults in its ranks fifteen years ago. It has since spent hundreds of millions of dollars to prevent this misconduct while laying emphasis on its zero-tolerance policy. But a year-and-a-half-long investigation carried out by CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell and the CBS News Investigative Unit painted a shocking picture of gross neglect and inaction. The news outlet interviewed several sexual assault survivors, families of suicide victims, and informers working with the military's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, Morgan Robinson's family was one of them.
In 1999 in my sister command a female sailor was gang raped & a video was made of it and being passed around the base.— Edward Meer (@edward_meer) November 19, 2020
She checked out an air tool of some kind & put it to her head. Then pulled the trigger in the middle of the day with all the command there.
Robinson wished to join the military when she was quite young and after she turned 21, she broke the news to her mother Debbie. "When she turned 21, she said, 'Mom, I gotta talk to ya.' And she told me then that she had joined," recalled Debbie while speaking to O'Donnell. After spending six years in the Army National Guard, Robinson was first deployed to Kuwait in 2016. There she, unfortunately, became a victim of sexual assault. "When she was in Kuwait, she was sexually assaulted and continually harassed by one of her superiors," revealed Debbie. Although Robinson reported the matter, there was no response or resolution provided to her. "She got nothing," her mother said.
During that same deployment, Morgan was sent to Afghanistan where she was tragically subjected to sexual assault again. Many fellow soldiers allegedly gang-raped her, but this time she was too afraid to report the matter, said Debbie. "She was very scared because they threatened her, number one. And number two, she knew that it wouldn't go anywhere. Nothing happened in Kuwait with the sexual assault and the harassment, so why would they do something, you know, in Afghanistan," she added. Then in April 2018, James Mattis, the then-Secretary of Defense pointed out the military had zero tolerance for sexual assaults. "While battlefield casualties are a reality of war, we will accept no casualties due to sexual assault in our military family," he said.
Of course they fucking weren’t. Out of all the boys clubs, the military is the boysest club.— Travis (@NotTravisNewman) November 19, 2020
However, just four months later Robinson died by suicide. "You pray that it — that's not how it's going to end up. It wasn't a matter of 'if.' It was a matter of 'when,'" shared Debbie. Soon after an investigation was launched into the death of Robinson, her mother was given a copy of the AR 15-6 investigation, several pages of which were heavily redacted. "I just didn't understand how they could actually stand there and look me in the eyes, and hand that to me," she recalled. According to CBS News, a principal policy advisor to the military's sexual assault program reiterated that the department is committed to holding itself accountable.
With no moral leadership from the White House and Trumpism's lax enforcement of personal conduct rules, the military is awash in even more sexual assault and suicide than usual--and in Morgan Robinson's case, those tragedies are connected. https://t.co/vHiHk8qbo5— Max Burns (@themaxburns) November 18, 2020
"The department remains committed to our goals of ending sexual assault in the military, providing the highest quality response to service members, and holding offenders appropriately accountable," shared Dr. Elizabeth P. Van Winkle. But their resolve seemed to contradict what Debbie found in the unredacted pages of the report. "Sergeant Robinson suffered sexual, physical, and psychological trauma while deployed. The sequela of this trauma was a factor in her death," said the investigation. Debbie says that the military was responsible for her daughter's untimely death especially "the way they did not handle what happened."
In 2002 I was informed my PR2 was groping & feeling up my female officers. PR2’s pattern of bad conduct went back 4 commands. In the prior 1 he photographed new aircrew at the Framp as they were being fitted. Basically in their underwear & less at times.— Edward Meer (@edward_meer) November 19, 2020
He was never punished
Eight months after Robinson passed away, the officer who assaulted her in Kuwait was just handed a written reprimand. "They can't police their self. How can you investigate yourself? You can't," said the heartbroken mother, explaining that things need to change. "If I was a commanding officer, and if I had kids, what would you think if that happened to your daughter, or your son? What would you want to happen to them? Are they just going to sit back and, 'It's okay'? They would want justice also," expressed Debbie. The devastated mother still cannot help but wonder if she could've done more to save her daughter.
In 1998 I was at the base with the F14s on it & they were picking out something from an engine. Turns out a sailor had been raped and blamed for it and she walked out to the flight line, then ran and jumped into a turning engine.— Edward Meer (@edward_meer) November 19, 2020
"Everything just plays over and over and over in your head, thinking, 'Did I miss something? Could I have done something?' You know, you're a mom. That's what you're there for, is to protect your kids. And I couldn't protect her," she added. Debbie wants everyone to know that her daughter was doing "a job that she loved. It was for her country and to think that that's what took her life. That's what broke her." Furthermore, she said, "They wanted her body. And they took her soul." When the Military was contacted, they just said in a statement that a full investigation had been conducted and appropriate steps were taken against the perpetrator.
In 2001 a young woman in the navy walked off the boat into the screws after being raped. Her attacker a Officer was shipped off the carrier and she was being punished for having a relationship with an officer.— Edward Meer (@edward_meer) November 19, 2020
This is how the military protects its male officers.
Disclaimer: If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is, please contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433).