CBS ‘Early Show’: Military ‘Long Accused of Mishandling Sexual Assault Reports’

While covering the murder of Marine Maria Lauterbach on Monday’s CBS "Early Show," Co-host Julie Chen used the opportunity to level broad charges against the military and its handling of sexual assault cases: "What did the Marines do to protect her, and when did they do it? It's a question we've heard asked for -- of the military for decades." This was followed by a report by CBS Correspondent David Martin, who agreed with Chen: "You're right, the military has long been accused of mishandling sexual assault reports, and there are now some protective measures in place."

Martin moved beyond Lauterbach, who reported being raped by the murder suspect, Cesar Laurean, last April, to other reports of sexual assault in the military:

MARTIN: Earlier in the Iraq war, revelations that there had been more than 100 sexual assault cases in Kuwait, Iraq , and the rest of the Persian Gulf, coupled with complaints from female service members that the male-dominated chain of command did not take their allegations seriously, brought this charge from Senator Susan Collins.

SUSAN COLLINS: That a victim of a sexual assault in the military faces far more obstacles in getting the help that she or he needs.

MARTIN: The military's handling of alleged sexual assaults became an issue after the 1991 'Tailhook Scandal.' That's when, at a convention of carrier pilots, several women charged they were sexually assaulted or harassed by male pilots. After the Navy initially failed to conduct an investigation, new policies were put in place which, among other things, were supposed to make it easier for victims to report sexual misconduct.

In addition to including Lauterbach’s case in an apparent pattern of the military’s failure to investigate such crimes, Martin went on to suggest that Lauterbach’s accusations were ignored: "But Lauterbach's uncle says the Marines seemed more interested in making the case go away than getting to the bottom of it."

One wonders what CBS thought of the Clinton Administration’s desire to make sexual assault charges "go away" rather than "getting to the bottom of it."

Later, Chen talked to Christine Hansen, Executive Director of the Miles Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on helping victims of violence in the military, and asked: "What should the military have done, or what could they have done to protect Maria that they didn't do?" Chen seemed to assume a military failure before getting any answer from Hansen.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: New developments in the case of the missing pregnant Marine whose charred remains were found in the backyard of a man now the target of a nationwide search. Did the military do enough?

7:02AM TEASER:

JULIE CHEN: Plus some tough questions for authorities. Could the Marines have protected her? For four weeks why did police not search the house where she was found dead? How did Corporal Caesar Laurean slip away?

7:12AM TEASER:

CHEN: Just ahead, did the military do enough to protect the 20-year-old pregnant Marine who was killed?

7:15AM SEGMENT:

JULIE CHEN: Good morning again, I'm Julie Chen, and this is The Early Show. We return to the tragic story of 20-year-old Maria Lauterbach, the pregnant Marine who was missing for four weeks, then found dead in the backyard of a fellow Marine she had formerly accused of rape. What did the Marines do to protect her, and when did they do it? It's a question we've heard asked for -- of the military for decades. Here's CBS News National Security Correspondent, David Martin, at the Pentagon. David, good morning.

DAVID MARTIN: Good morning, Julie. You're right, the military has long been accused of mishandling sexual assault reports, and there are now some protective measures in place. But with 182,000 women having served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and with more than a hundred having given their lives in those wars, there are new calls to find out what happened to Maria Lauterbach and why. Earlier in the Iraq war, revelations that there had been more than 100 sexual assault cases in Kuwait, Iraq , and the rest of the Persian Gulf, coupled with complaints from female service members that the male-dominated chain of command did not take their allegations seriously, brought this charge from Senator Susan Collins.

SUSAN COLLINS: That a victim of a sexual assault in the military faces far more obstacles in getting the help that she or he needs.

MARTIN: The military's handling of alleged sexual assaults became an issue after the 1991 'Tail Hook Scandal.' That's when, at a convention of carrier pilots, several women charged they were sexually assaulted or harassed by male pilots. After the Navy initially failed to conduct an investigation, new policies were put in place which, among other things, were supposed to make it easier for victims to report sexual misconduct. Last April when Maria Lauterbach accused fellow Marine Corporal Cesar Laurean of raping her, commanders at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina followed what is now standard procedure, separating the two Marines by assigning them to work in different buildings and ordering Laurean not to have any contact with her. But Lauterbach's uncle says the Marines seemed more interested in making the case go away than getting to the bottom of it.

PETE STEINER: The naval investigator that she was working with was supportive of her, but the Marines appeared to be actively encouraging her to drop this case.

MARTIN: Last night the Marines issued a statement saying, we are collecting information and reviewing actions taken as a result of information becoming available. It is premature to discuss those actions until the review is complete. Julie.

CHEN: David Martin at the Pentagon, thanks, David. Joining us now is Christine Hansen, the Executive Director of the Miles Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides services to victims of violence in the armed forces. Christine, good morning.

CHRISTINE HANSEN: Good morning, Julie.

CHEN: What should the military have done, or what could they have done to protect Maria that they didn't do?

HANSEN: There are a number of opportunities here, even going beyond a military protection order, there could have been an order of protection within the civilian community issued, seeing as predominantly over 60% of military personnel actually live off base.

CHEN: But who should have sought that protective order off base? Should the military, once she reports this crime, that allegedly happened on the base, or should she have gone to local authorities off base herself?

HANSEN: There are actually -- as a military service member, she's entitled to services through a victim advocate on base. That victim advocate may have been able to provide her an order of protection. In other words, petitioned for her, et cetera. So she could have had services both on base as well as off base and obtained that order of protection which would then be enforceable on base under the Armed Forces Domestic Security Act as well as off base.

CHEN: But would that have saved her life?

HANSEN: It may not necessarily have saved her life, but it -- we often look at it as part of a safety plan. There would have been -- should have been a conversation between her and a victim advocate to fully develop a safety plan for her based upon where she works, where she lives, who her alleged assailant was at the time, et cetera. An order of protection is one step in that plan.

CHEN: But who ultimately has jurisdiction over this case? Before -- when she first reported the alleged rape, should she have just stayed with the military police to handle everything?

HANSEN: It actually depends upon where the assault occurred, Julie. The primary jurisdiction appears to be with the military, as she's a military service person. If it did occur off the base, however, local authorities could also take jurisdiction.

CHEN: And once she was reported missing and the Onslow County Sheriff's Department got involved, would they have had the right to go and search the home of her accused rapist?

HANSEN: Well, it depends. We have to afford everyone who faces allegations due process. So there would be necessity of a search warrant going before a judge, et cetera. I think one of the components here is what collaboration was occurring between local law enforcement and the military? Once local law enforcement became aware of the fact that she was a victim witness in a crime and an open investigation.

CHEN: Christine Hansen, thank you so much.

HANSEN: Thank you, Julie.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC