On August 11th of this year, we presented a one-hour program exposing the pervasive problem of sexual assault within the ranks of the United States military and the response we received from that show was overwhelming. We were contacted by military personnel from across the country and knew we had only scratched the surface.  We spoke of the issues in the abstract-facts, figures, numbers-but there was no real ‘face’ on the topic.  As legendary broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say, “…and now, the rest of the story.”

One case in particular caught our attention, that of former servicewoman, Terri Odom.

Terri Odom

Terri’s story is so horrific and so painful, we hesitated asking her to come on and talk to us about it – and it was not without a good deal of serious thought before she agreed to do so.  We thank her in advance for her courage in sharing her story.  Terri understands though, that until the American public fully understands what is happening and what our service personnel are facing, that we can’t truly change what is broken.  She’s a brave woman to come on and her story is one well worth hearing.

Panayiota Bertzikis and Heath Phillips

What we didn’t know at the time of the original show, is that sexual assault among military personnel is not solely a female issue and even for us, that was a shocking revelation.  Heath Phillips enlisted in the Navy at age 17 and within days of his first ships’ assignment, he was assaulted by fellow service members.  Like so many other victims, his requests for help went unheeded and the abuse by his shipmates escalated to violent ends until Heath felt he had no choice but to go AWOL.  He was subsequently arrested and his story took several other turns at the hands of the military – who mishandled his case like so many others.  Heath too, has bravely accepted our request to speak with him.

Nancy Parrish and Congresswoman Jackie Speier

We encourage you to go to a special website that details the issues surrounding Military Sexual Assault (there’s actually a name for this).  Hear their stories.  Learn about what can be done.  Sign the petitions. We all need to become involved and you can help.  It’s time to protect our defenders, not from the enemy we know about, but the enemy within.  We will be joined by Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders, an organization that seeks to honor, support and give voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been sexually assaulted while serving their country. And re-victimized by the military adjudication system – a system that often blames the victim and fails to prosecute the perpetrator.

Perhaps the most active voice on behalf of these victims within the political arena has been California Congresswoman Jackie Speier.  Speier introduced the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act—the STOP Act, H.R. 3435, on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 which would take the reporting, oversight, investigation, and victim care of sexual assaults out of the hands of the military’s normal chain of command and place jurisdiction in the newly created, autonomous Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office comprised of civilian and military experts.  We believe that is a positive first step in creating real and lasting change.

Follow up: Do we really support our troops?

If you missed the live show, you can listen via archives


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