Alex Witt   |  May 18, 2013

Survivor: Military sexual assaults should be treated like national security issue

Former Army Specialist and sexual assault survivor Brigette McCoy talks to MSNBC’s Alex Witt about the prevalence of sexual assault in the United States military. She reveals why she is not optimistic about the rate and scope of change regarding abuse within the military. She talks about the necessity of separating members who serve honorably and individuals who commit rape while they are the military.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> welcome back to "weekends with alex witt ." secretary of defense chuck hagel has now signed an order for the military to review and retrain everyone involved in the sexual assault prevention offices as well as recruiters. this follows thursday's meeting between president obama and senior military leaders as they work to end the shocking prevalence of sexual assault in the armed services . friday secretary hagel vowed to stop this crisis.

>> this is going to take all of us. the problem will be solved here in this institution and we will -- we will fix it, and we will do everything that we need to do to fix it. there's not a military leader that was in that room that's not completely committed to that.

>> joining me now with her story is former army specialist brigitte mccoy who was raped on her very first assignment shy of her 19th birthday. she faced sexual harassment that forced her to end her military career early. i am very glad for your time and i appreciate your honesty and your candor. my question to you is before you testified to the senate back in march, what did that meesh for you after being silenced for so many years?

>> having that level of voice nationally was huge for me. i hadec intoen on some regional areas and people kind of knew my story, but to have the senators there to let me tell my story and to acknowledge that i had been telling the truth for across the board and what that also did is it gave other people the voice to speak up, as well.

>> you said something in that hearing that really hit me hard. i'm going to have everyone take a listen to this.

>> i have to say i no longer have any faith or hope that the military chain of command will consistently prosecute, convict, sentence and carry out the sentencing of sexual predators in uniform without abskonding justice somehow.

>> two months later, has anything changed for you?

>> no. not really as far as specifically, you know, perpetrators being charged and sentenced and doing jail time. i know that the military justice act that just came out with senator gillibrand and the improvement act. i know that that's something on the floor that's getting pushed through that that can take things out of the chain of command so that we can have better prosecution and as for as what i'm seeing on the news and i'm still seeing it as business as usual as it relates to the military. i do hear on the hill, you know, from senators and politicians and from the president and, you know, all of those people are saying it's got to change, but i still kind of feel like the military is, like, oh, we'll just let this kind of blow over. you know, within the chain. i don't see it changing as quickly as it should with all of the national attention. at this point we shouldn't have people walking away from prison time and going and being transferred to arizona. we shouldn't have people who are pandering and having the opportunity to prostitute our service members and still we are talking about what we're going to do with them. i mean, if this is a national security issue then we should handle it like it's a national security issue. those people should be out of the military within seconds. in my condition, i was -- i reported sexual harassment and i was out in three days, three or four days so i don't understand why it's taken so long.

>> what's also interesting to me is there's an irony here, you have sexual abuse educators accused of committing some assaults. we have two incidents of that right now. it tells you how bad the problem is with 26,000 cases of abuse just this last year. does it start even in recruitment? is there something that needs to be changed there before people who are going to have a fred likz towards this? that they'll be able to get into the military?

>> so one of the challenges i have with all of that is yes, i do believe that the recruiters as well should be carefully screened, but like i said, just because someone puts on a military uniform , just because they wear it doesn't mean that they're a service member. if they are a perpetrator, if they're a rapist or someone who sexually assaults, we shouldn't be considering them as service members and we shouldn't have this high regard for them as we do the service members who fight and serve honorably. they shouldn't have all of these rights and protections under the ucmj like the victims haven't had. so i think my challenge with it is that we still consider a rapist, someone who rapes another service member a service member. that goes against everything within the code. they should absolutely be stripped of their uniform and of their rank. it shouldn't be some discussion. it should be an absolute thing, and so, you know, i'm here talking to you about this, but it's just very frustrating to me because there's this conversation that continues to happen that, you know, we want to make sure that we're protecting everybody, but you're not protecting the victim. the only people --

>> you're only protecting the people who are breaking the law . so if you're going to only get six months in the brig or six months in -- in some type of, you know, hard duty, but in civilian sector, this will be a major crime and we're not taking it at that level and that's very frustrating to me and there is no reason that anybody would come forward. there's no financial remuneration for coming forward as a sexual assault survivor or a rape sur slivivosurvivor. you don't get any special consideration. on the contrary, if you're in the military, you get exited out of the military with a quickness.

>> can i ask you, brigitte , if you can change one thing that might be the sccatalyst for overall change, where would you start? don't let rapists or anyone with sexual assault history in the military at all under any circumstances.

>> okay. starting with recruitment and moving on from there. from army specialist brigitte mccoy, thank you so much. i appreciate your honesty here and your story.

>> thank you for having me.