Pentagon officials endorse demonstration against military sexual assault

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The Pentagon is shown in this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo.

The Department of Defense (DOD) on Monday endorsed a demonstration against military sexual assault held earlier in the day in front of the Pentagon.

Roughly 40 military veterans, service members and supporters attended the #MeTooMilitary demonstration Monday morning at the Pentagon Metro Station. The group demanded accountability from Pentagon leaders on the handling of military sexual assault and harassment, according to Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), one of three nonprofit groups that helped organize the gathering.

“No one should have to tolerate harassment as part of their military service,” Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters after the rally.

Asked if the department supports the objectives of the protesters, Manning replied, “Yes.”

Speakers at the event included retired Col. Don Christensen, president of Protect Our Defenders; Monica Medina, a former special assistant to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta; and Heath Phillips, a survivor of military sexual trauma.

Pentagon staff, including chief spokeswoman Dana White, walked outside toward the end of the gathering to express their support.

“The DOD continually works to eliminate sexual harassment and assault from the military,” Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway said in a statement to The Hill.

“We encourage service members to report all instances of sexual assault so we can provide support services and hold offenders accountable. Treating all military and civilian members with dignity and respect is a core principle of the DOD,” he said.

SWAN chief executive Lydia Watts said in a statement that despite the many efforts made by the military to address sexual assault and harassment, only 4 percent of cases result in conviction.

“True progress will be measured when there is a wholesale culture change in which retaliation is not tolerated, survivors feel safe coming forward and there are swift and fair prosecutions,” Watts said.

The demonstration comes a day after numerous celebrities, producers, writers and directors wore black to the 75th Golden Globe Awards on Sunday evening in a show of solidarity against the culture of sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry.

Sexual misconduct in Hollywood took center stage last year when actresses came forward to accuse movie producer Harvey Weinstein of harassment, assault and rape.

Since then, prominent men in other fields — including politics and journalism — have stepped down after allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior.

–This report was updated at 2:16 p.m.

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