By Scott Halasz
August 20, 2014
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — The co-chairs of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus met at Wright-Patt on Monday to see what the base is doing to combat sex assaults.
Congressman Michael Turner (R-OH) hosted Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA) as the pair received a detailed overview of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program at Wright Patterson Air Force Base from lawyers, investigators, medical professionals, and major commanders.
Via a secure teleconference, their counterparts located at Hanscom AFB in Tsongas district also provided a detailed description and overview of their response to sexual assault.
Tsongas and Turner have worked closely together since 2007 to eliminate sexual assault from the military. Together, they have passed reform that takes action to eradicate these crimes and that holds military leaders, service members, and military justice system to the highest standard.
The pair met Mary Lauterbach and Merle Wilberding, two staunch advocates for the elimination of sexual assault from the armed forces.
“In the most tragic of circumstances, the issue of military sexual assault was brought to my attention through the story of Mary’s daughter, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach,” Turner said.
Maria Lauterbach, who grew up in Vandalia, was serving her country when she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a senior enlisted member in her unit. After reporting her assault, she was forced to continue serving alongside her assailant. For eight months, Maria Lauterbach lived with the aftermath of her attack, and then her accused attacker allegedly struck again killing her and her unborn child, according to a release from Turner.
The tragic story of Maria Lauterbach demonstrated significant problems with the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault policy, the release said. Lauterbach’s story has helped shape the laws created in the House Armed Services Committee and policies within the DoD, according to Turner.
“Since 2007, Congresswoman Tsongas and I have worked closely together to pass substantive, bipartisan legislation that would prevent a tragedy like Maria Lauterbach’s from every happening again,” Turner said. “I was very pleased to hear that the Air Force remains fully committed to preventing future sexual assault, protecting victims, and assuring that any perpetrators are prosecuted to fullest extent of the law.”
Turner said the system is changing, but there is still work left to do.
“For years Rep. Turner and I have built a foundation of respect and partnership, grounded in a mutual desire to do what’s right and what’s best for the men and women of the United States military,” Tsongas said. “I highly value our continued partnership to combat military sexual assault and change the military culture that has enabled those crimes to occur for too long. Military sexual assault is a critical, complex issue and I know both Mr. Turner and I are dedicated to furthering our work together to continue enacting meaningful reform.”
Tsongas was scheduled to host Turner in Massachusetts for a tour of Hanscom Air Force Base and a series of meetings and round-table discussions related to their work on the House Armed Services Committee. Topics will include their joint efforts to combat military sexual assault and ways to improve economic development in their respective regions.