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Federal ‘Vanessa Guillen’ Act introduced, data reveals risk of sexual assault at Fort Bliss

Dónde está Vanessa Guillén? Misteriosa desaparición de soldado dentro de  base militar, se quejaba de acoso - Los Angeles Times

by: Erin Coulehan

Posted:  Updated: 

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Christian Alvarado never thought he’d be convicted of sexually assaulting Pfc. Asia Graham and other women.

“These [expletive] are going to trip when I walk out of this,” Alvarado told Maj. Natalia Cardona, the military forensic psychologist who evaluated him as part of a general court-martial.

Alvarado’s statement prior to being convicted and sentenced to 18 years underscores the attitudes that lawmakers and advocates say are emblematic of the need for military justice reform when it comes to sexual assault.

“We’re here today because every year, 20,000 service members are sexually assaulted and another 100,000 are sexually harassed,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, said in a news conference on Wednesday.

Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, joined Speier and a coterie of legislators from both parties and chambers of the U.S. Congress to introduce the Vanessa Guillen Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act. The bipartisan and bicameral bill would transfer the decision to prosecute serious crimes in the military from the chain of command and into the hands of trained, independent military prosecutors. Escobar is co-leading efforts on the House side.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, introduced the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA) to the Senate earlier this week. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas,. is also working on the act.

“For eight years, I have proudly worked hand-in-hand with Sen. Gillibrand on this crucial, bipartisan legislation to combat sexual violence in our nation’s military,” Cruz wrote in an email to KTSM 9 News. “Unfortunately, sexual assault within the ranks continues to be a substantial problem facing our service members — and it’s one we must address decisively.”

The continued calls for legislation come in the wake of Graham’s death and the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen following separate incidents of sexual assault while enlisted in the military.

“The fact remains, under the status quo, too many victims are reluctant to come forward and report these horrific crimes,” Cruz wrote. “Moving prosecution of sexual assaults outside of the chain of command can help prevent those assaults by increasing reporting throughout our military and assuring victims that any possible conflicts with their command structure won’t affect their case.”

Analyses of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the U.S. Army was conducted at the request of the U.S. Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1 to evaluate where and why incidents are most prevalent. The analyses found the average total risk to all women in the Army overall is 5.8 percent, but that some groups of women face a much higher risk of sexual assault/harassment based on the installation that they’re assigned to.

Fort Bliss was found to have the second-highest risk for women with a rate of 7.6 percent. The study found that Fort Hood has the highest risk for sexual assault, at 8.4 percent. The study’s authors reported that about 1 in 12 women at Fort Hood are sexually assaulted.

Additional risk was identified based on commands and career fields. The commands with the highest total risk for women are combat units, particularly the 1st Cavalry Division (with a risk of 9.3 percent), Headquarters, III Corps (8.1 percent overall risk), both at Fort Hood; and the 1st Armored Division (8.5 percent), which is at Fort Bliss.

Women in artillery careers were found to have the highest total risk of sexual assault at a rate of 10.6 percent out of all groups of soldiers evaluated.

The study’s researchers say one explanation is that both Fort Hood and Fort Bliss have large volumes of young, unmarried women who are junior-ranking soldiers.

The research team also examined adjusted risk, which evaluates the risk of sexual assault and harassment on an installation-by-installation basis. Again, Fort Hood and Fort Bliss were reported to have high adjusted risk, meaning that women at these installations are at greater risk of sexual assault than at comparative bases. Men in the Army, by contrast, were found to have an overall risk of 0.6 percent of sexual assault and 6.5 percent overall risk of sexual harassment.

The researchers’ recommendation is to optimize reductions in sexual assault rates by offering enhanced and expanded prevention programs to installations, commands and career fields where soldiers are most at risk. An additional recommendation for the researchers is to collect survey data to quickly and efficiently identify units, commands, bases, career fields and other groups at risk for sexual assault and harassment.

Proposed legislation and recommendations by researchers also urge the implementation of preventative efforts. Research suggests that the climate of a particular base of unit plays a role in the prevalence of sexual assault or harassment.

“Groups of soldiers that have better supervisor unit and unit climate scores tend to have lower adjusted sexual assault risk and sexual harassment risk scores, while groups with worse climate scores have higher adjusted risk,” according to the study.

Another recommendation is to develop climate-improvement interventions for commands, installations and career fields with elevated adjusted risk for sexual assault and harassment and poor climate scores.

Other characteristics were identified with elevated risks of sexual assault among women in the military, particularly groups with large proportions of soldiers with combat arms jobs. The recommendation is to examine the distinctions between service members’ experiences in similar groups with different risk profiles in order to determine factors such as work life, social life, culture, etc., that could contribute to disparities when it comes to sexual assault/harassment exposure.

The authors of the study stress conducting studies and sharing historical sexual assault risk and harassment data with unit commanders.

“When we have a system that fails victims, everyone is failed. Because everyone is a potential victim,” said Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is looking to the future and is confident the bill will pass quickly in the House and Senate.

Legislators working on the bill said they wanted to also remember the lives lost before introduction of the legislation.

“We come together today with one voice, with one plan, to save service members from the fates of Specialist Guillen, Private First Class Asia Graham, Airman First Class Natasha Aposhian,” said Speier.

Court-martial begins for Kirtland airman accused of possessing illegal weapons

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A court-martial has begun for a Kirtland airman accused of possessing a large cache of weapons. Investigators say Senior Airman Charles Justice imported an illegal silencer from China. Police later found 17 guns and large amounts of ammunition at his home on base, along with images describing how to make a machine gun and explosives and photos with names of mass shooters written on them.

He is charged with dereliction of duty, wrongful disposition of military property, and larceny. According to a news release from Kirtland AFB, the trial will be held in a courtroom on base. No other information was provided.

Fort Bliss soldier found guilty of raping Asia Graham, 1 other woman; sentenced to 18 years

Christian Alvarado/Courtesy EPPD.

El Paso, Texas (KTSM) — Pfc. Christian Alvarado was found guilty Friday of raping fellow Fort Bliss soldier Pfc. Asia Graham. He was sentenced to 18 years and three months, with 108 days credited. He was also dishonorably discharged.

Shortly after 2 p.m. on Friday, Judge Col. Robert Shuck issued his verdicts.

Alvarado was found guilty on the sexual assault of Graham, the sexual assault and rape of a second accuser and guilty on one count of intentionally deceiving military investigators. He was found not guilty of an alleged assault in a hotel, and not guilty of the two counts of sexual assault alleged by a former girlfriend in Mesa, Ariz.

Graham was found dead on New Year’s Eve 2020.

The judge presiding over the general court-martial of Pfc. Christian Alvarado, who faces multiple counts of sexual assault and strangulation, adjourned the court around 11 a.m. Friday to begin deliberations.

Both parties gave their closing arguments to a packed court room this morning over the course of two tense hours.

All three accusers, their families, and the Graham family were present Friday and awaiting the verdict.

As KTSM reported before, Alvarado testified Thursday that Pfc. Asia Graham twice pressured him to sell “vape juice” cartridges for synthetic cannabis pens.

Graham, whom military officials say died of an accidental mixed-drug intoxication on New Year’s Eve 2020, accused Alvarado of sexually assaulting her when she had just arrived at Fort Bliss in December 2019. Graham filed a report against Alvarado in May 2020.

These five Army posts have the highest sexual assault risk, study shows

Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas, top the list of Army installations where women are at the highest risk for sexual assault, taking into account several factors, according to a Rand Corp. study released Friday. Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and Fort Carson, Colorado, round out of the top five.

Researchers concluded that large numbers of young and inexperienced soldiers could account for those risks, but so, too, can toxic command climates and proximity to combat arms units.

“For example, we estimated that the total sexual assault risk to Army women at Fort Hood during fiscal year (FY) 2018 was 8.4 percent,” according to the report. “By comparison, the average total risk to all women in the Army during this period was 5.8 percent, almost one-third lower.”

The study is part of a larger Army G-1 project dubbed “Identifying Army Organizational Factors Contributing to Sexual Assault Risk,” a focus point for the Army in the wake of the death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood last year.

“Fort Hood and Fort Bliss have large numbers of young, unmarried, less-educated, and junior ranking soldiers, who are known to be at higher risk of sexual assault,” according to the report. “This raises the question of whether groups — such as installations — with higher risk estimates have soldiers assigned to them who are at higher risk because of their individual characteristics, or whether their personnel would be expected to experience lower risk if stationed at another base.”

Even when compared to only other posts of similar size and demographics, researchers estimate that women at Ford Hood are still at a 1.7-percent increased risk of sexual assault.

Researchers then adjusted their calculations for those at-risk characteristics ― age, marital status and so on ― and found a completely different set of high-risk posts for women and men of any demographic.

For women, Fort Drum, New York; Fort Lewis, Washington; and Okinawa, Japan, posed the greatest sexual assault risk. For men, it was Fort Drum; Osan, South Korea; and Italy in general.

“This suggests the possibility that bases, commands, and CMFs with larger proportions of women who live on a base face higher sexual assault risks than would otherwise be expected given their personnel characteristics,” according to the report. “Similarly, more deployments and environments with greater proportions of combat arms occupations are associated with increased adjusted risk for women.”

A congressional hearing came one week after two proposals to reform CID were outlined in briefing documents obtained by Army Times.

Deployments, more broadly, presented a higher risk for harassment among both genders.

“Higher operational tempo — defined as days deployed on a Global War on Terrorism mission — is also associated with higher adjusted sexual assault risk and sexual harassment risk among women and higher sexual harassment risk among men,” the report reads.

The study also examined military occupational specialties, with data showing that women in field artillery and engineering are at the highest risk for sexual assault ― for example, 10.6 percent for field artillery.

However, calculating risk by MOS is challenging, because some career fields have too few women to represent a significant sample.

“Field artillery was the first combat [career management field] opened to women, and the only one with sufficient numbers of women to allow estimates of risk by the period covered by this project,” the report stated, meaning combat MOSs like infantry and armor can’t yet be evaluated.

Sgt. Taylor Knueven pitches an idea to better the Army's Sexual Harassment and Assault and Prevention Program during a panel at Fort Bragg, N.C. (Sgt. Marygian D. Barnes/Army)

Sgt. Taylor Knueven pitches an idea to better the Army’s Sexual Harassment and Assault and Prevention Program during a panel at Fort Bragg, N.C. (Sgt. Marygian D. Barnes/Army)

Elsewhere, the study confirmed what other research and experts have long emphasized: toxic command climates mean higher risk of assault, and where sexual harassment is a problem, sexual assault is disproportionately higher.

“Notably, sexual harassment is more common than sexual assault in the Army, but our results also showed that the risk of sexual harassment is highly correlated with the risk of sexual assault,” the report reads. “Thus, bases with high sexual assault risk have high sexual harassment risk, and those with low sexual assault risk have low sexual harassment risk.”

In other words, a command that tolerates harassment is more like to foster assaults.

“For example, more-positive unit climate and supervisor climate scores are associated with lower adjusted sexual assault and sexual harassment risk among women and lower adjusted sexual harassment risk among men,” according to the report.

Rand researchers recommend that the Army create a strategy that takes into account the disproportionate ways that sexual assault and harassment can affect soldiers.

For example, they could mine the Defense Equal Opportunity Employment Survey for units, MOSs or other groups with greater harassment and assault reports.

“The Army should investigate the differences in soldiers’ experiences in similar groups with different risk profiles, such as the 2nd Infantry Division and the 4th Infantry Division, to understand what differences in work life, social life, culture, or climate could be contributing to women’s risk exposure,” the report reads.

Army leaders could then develop targeted programs to improve the climates for those groups, and follow that up with briefing materials for incoming commanders, so they are aware of the unit’s issues and attempts to address them.

“Decision makers should share historical sexual assault and sexual harassment risk information with unit commanders,” the report added. “Doing so can forewarn commanders of known problems that are likely to persist within their units. This information can sensitize the commanders to the possible need for special prevention measures and prepare them to address problems quickly.”

Accusers testify in court-martial of Fort Bliss soldier accused of rape

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — A trial over allegations of sexual assault against a Fort Bliss soldier continued on Tuesday as prosecutors and defense attorneys jousted over the case.

Private First Class (Pfc.) Christian Alvarado stands accused of several sexual assault charges. A court-martial trial began this week.

On Tuesday, the court revealed that Special Agent Aaron Postma, who testified on Monday as a Senior Interviewer in the Criminal Investigations Unit (CID), was in fact a polygraph administrator.

Postma administered two polygraphs on Alvarado pertaining to two victims: the late Asia Graham, and another accuser.  Graham was found unresponsive in her barracks on New Year’s Eve and was later pronounced dead by the Fort Bliss Department of Emergency Services personnel – family says it was from asphyxiation.

The defense kicked-off around 9:30am, with defense attorneys asking Postma, 34, about his education level.

Postma testified that Closed Circuit TV was used to film and record the interview for records. He also said that he reviewed Special Agent James Diamond’s case summaries of his interviews with Alvarado to avoid any bias that may arise from viewing the video footage.

Interview techniques used by Postma included rapport building and minimization. And, part of the rapport building process, Postma said, is using words that are in the examinee’s lexicon.

“P**sy hits the radar of don’t give a sh*t when you’re drunk,” is an example he used when discussing whether Graham was conscious during intercourse with Alvarado.

“Even if she was having the greatest time of her f***ing life,” he added.

The defense then questioned if Postma watered things down to Alvarado to elicit a false statement.

“I ensure I have the most accurate information to perform a good test,” Postma testified.

Alvarado did not pass the first polygraph test and his responses contradicted his initial statements to Diamond.

He’d later fail the other three.

According to Postma, Alvarado’s story changed when it came to if Graham lost consciousness during sex.

Alvarado said she passed out about halfway through intercourse. He knew this because Graham stopped moaning and her eyes were closed, as if asleep.

Postma asked Alvarado questions about sexual deviancy as it relates to generating questions related to a sexual assault accusation.

Sexual deviancy is now characterized by psychologists as “paraphilic disorders.”

Paraphilic disorders pertain to sexual desires and behaviors involving another person’s psychological distress, injury, or death; or a desire for sexual behaviors involving unwilling persons or anyone unable to give consent.

The polygraph results are used as leverage to address statement inconsistencies and to enable Postma to “score a good chart,” rather than an instrument of intimidation, said the Judge.

“The results are not relevant,” said the Judge, “it’s all about how the statements are presented to the court.”

Shortly before a 90 minute lunch recess, arguments presented to the court by the defense and prosecution posed a multiple choice question to the Judge.

Air Force Academy Major found not guilty

By Chase Golightly
Published  7:26 PM

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) — After seven hours of deliberation, a panel of eight officers handed down a not guilty verdict for Major Elaine Christian.

Maj. Christian was accused of abusive sexual contact, abuse of training leadership position, and two specifications for dereliction of duty at the Air Force Academy. Prosecutors claim the major sexually abused a female cadet in 2019 and gave cadets under the age of 21 alcohol.

The trial lasted for five days and on Sunday a military court-martial acquitted Maj. Christian of all charges according to officials with the Air Force Academy.

Rtd. Army General Demoted After Conviction For Years-Long Sexual Abuse Of Daughter

KEY POINTS

  • Grazioplene’s daughter filed a complaint against him in 2015
  • The charges were dismissed by a military court in 2018
  • Last year, a Prince William County grand jury convicted him

A retired Army major general has been demoted to the rank of second lieutenant, a year after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting his daughter.

“The Secretary of Defense changed the retired grade of then-Major General James J. Grazioplene, United States Army Retired, to the second lieutenant after determining that the second lieutenant was the highest grade in which he served on active duty satisfactorily,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lisa Lawrence told Army Times in an email Monday.

“This action may not be appealed,” she wrote. But, Grazioplene will maintain any benefits or privileges authorized for retired officers in the grade of the second lieutenant.

It was in 2015 that Grazioplene’s daughter Jennifer Elmore reported the rape and abuse to the Army CID agents at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

An investigation was carried out by the military and in 2017, court-martial proceedings were initiated, though the allegations were three decades old.

The Army charged him with six counts of violating Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice over the rape of a minor between 1983 and 1989.

During the military hearing, Elmore had detailed the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of her father. “At 3, he led me to the dark, dirty basement of my grandmother’s house and put me on the washing machine and pleasured himself while molesting me,” she said in a victim impact statement, as reported by Law and Crime.

“At 8, he bought me a piano and insisted on taking me to piano lessons, all so he could park and take whatever sick pleasures that he so desired. The same horrors occurring as he regularly insisted on bathing me. It took me until college to be able to use a bar of soap.”

But the charges were dismissed. A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in another case effectively limited the statute of limitations in Grazioplene’s case to five years.

However, Prince William County grand jury indicted him in late 2018 as the prosecutors in Virginia were not bound by the statute of limitations for crimes that allegedly occurred while Grazioplene and his family were stationed in the state.

He was arrested in 2018 and charged with rape, incest, and aggravated sexual battery. He pleaded guilty to a single count of sexual battery and in return, all the other charges were dismissed. In 2020, Grazioplene was given time served with a suspended sentence of 20 years.

james grazioplene

Jury selection begins in Air Force Academy Major court-martial

 

types of court martial Summary Court-MartialCOLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO)– A general court-martial is underway in the U.S. Air Force, for a female major now facing sexual abuse charges.

Jury selection began at 9:30 Tuesday in the case of Major Elaine C. Christian. She is charged with one specification of an alleged sexual contact, abuse of training leadership position, and two specifications for dereliction of duty.

Prosecutors claim the major sexually abused a female cadet in 2019. Prosecutors told prospective jurors Tuesday that the reported victim will testify in court this week.

Christian is also charged with giving alcohol to cadets who weren’t 21 yet.

The prosecution asked potential jurors Tuesday about their views on sexual assault and past experiences with sexual assault.

Meanwhile, the major’s defense team asked the juror pool how they thought someone’s mental health could have an impact on their ability to make a fair ruling.

The trial is expected to last four to five days, and opening statements are expected to begin Wednesday, June 9.

If found guilty Christian would have the choice of who would sentence her: A judge or a panel of military members.

If that happens, she told the judge Tuesday she wants to be sentenced by military members.

Sailor filmed women secretly

US Naval Forces Central Command headquarters in Bahrain
A FORMER US Navy personnel stationed in Bahrain has been found guilty of using his mobile phone to film female service members in a private area. Navy records showed that former Chief Boatswain’s Mate Douglas Lusk pleaded guilty to two specifications of disorderly conduct during a special court-martial in San Diego .

Soldier faces Court Martial for Sexual Misconduct

The Gazette is reporting a former soldier at Fort Carson is facing numerous counts of sexual misconduct. Army lawyers allege Sgt major Benito Perez Jr had sexually inappropriate online communications with an underage girl, and convinced women to disrobe while he exposed himself. He has also been charged with inappropriately touching a female private and asking her for lewd photos. Army prosecutors say Perez allegedly took these actions while he was stationed at Fort Carson, and bases in Indiana and overseas in Kuwait. Prosecutors are also looking into reports involving a number of underage girls between 2013 and 2017. A formal court martial will begin June 7th.

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