Turner, Harman, and Lauterbach push for Department of Defense reform to protect women in military

8/1/2008

Mary Lauterbach, mother of slain marine Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach, and Congresswoman Jane Harman presented their testimonies to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, National Security and Foreign Affairs on Thursday, July 31. One of the members of the committee is Congressman Mike Turner, who has championed the Lauterbach cause and has promoted Department of Defense (DOD) reforms to protect women in situations like Maria’s. Turner and Harman have also joined forces to co-author H. CON RES 397, a bill calling for the DOD to formulate a comprehensive plan for the prevention of sexual assault and rape in America’s armed forces.

“The senate legislation is to require a comprehensive strategy by DOD to address sexual assault,” said Turner. “Also, we’ve put some provisions in that relate specifically to Maria Lauterbach’s case.”

One of the bill’s proposals that is directly connected with the Lauterbach case is the provision of an optional base transfer to be made available to the victims of sexual assault. In the days preceding her disappearance and murder, Maria Lauterbach was still exposed to her alleged attacker, Corporal Cesar Laurean. Mary Lauterbach has consistently expressed the contention that Maria would still be alive if such exposure had been prevented.

According to Turner, other Lauterbach-related provisions in the bill included “requirements that the military protective order stay in force until rescinded rather than having the expirations dates that they have right now” and a stipulation “that local authorities be notified when the military protective order goes into place so that there is coordination between local authorities and base authorities.”

In the April 16, 2008 edition of the Vandalia Drummer, Turner stated that the military “had no sense of urgency” in dealing with the Lauterbach case. Sadly, the same pattern of indifference became painfully evident today when the DOD defied a subpoena by congress. The committee had requested the presence of one of the heads of the military’s sexual program at the hearing. However, the requested official did not show up.

“We’re very concerned that the DOD not only doesn’t take this seriously, but isn’t going to participate in finding some of the solutions,” said Turner.

Yet, Turner, Harman, and Lauterbach do not intend to remain silent.

“The committee is talking about what actions they might take against DOD to compel them to attend and answer the committee’s questions and I certainly support that,” Turner said.

Lauterbach was murdered at some indeterminate point on December 14, 2007. Lauterbach had filed a claim of sexual assault against Laurean on March 11, 2007. Later in June 2007, it was officially confirmed that Lauterbach was pregnant. The burnt remains of the young marine and her unborn son were discovered in a shallow grave in Laurean’s backyard. A letter that Laurean had left with his wife before fleeing Camp Lejeune, North Carolina claimed that Lauterbach had killed herself by cutting her own throat. Yet, authorities have rejected this claim, citing blunt force to the head as the cause of Lauterbach’s death. A three-month manhunt for Laurean ensued, ending with Laurean’s capture on April 10, 2008 in western Mexico.

Since then, questions concerning the military’s handling of the Lauterbach have continued to surface. According to Turner, bringing these questions into clearer focus was one of the purposes of the Thursday hearing.

“We tried to get some of those questions out in the purview,” Turner said. “Mary supplied those questions to the hearing committee so that we could send them on to the DOD and enforce requests for responses. Source

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