U.S Coast Guard

Panayiota Bertzikis and Military Rape Crisis Center featured in July 2013 issue of Glamour

Attention Rapists: You’ve Met Your Match

From Steubenville, Ohio, to Washington, D.C., from city courts to Twitter feeds, a new generation of women are taking the fight for justice into their own hands. Let their total fearlessness inspire you….

That outrage is moving many women to action. After Panayiota Bertzikis, 31, reported being assaulted by a fellow Coast Guard member in 2006, she was furious that he wasn’t court-martialed and that, instead, superiors made her feel guilty. “Why would I be ashamed?” she asks. “It’s my rapist who should be ashamed.” She joined a class-action lawsuit, alleging that officers mishandled her case, and, from her barracks, founded the Military Rape Crisis Center. The snowball effect she created helped pressure Congress to hold hearings this year on military sexual assault; President Obama himself expressed outrage, saying, “I have no tolerance for this.”

Print edition here

Tablet edition here


U.S Coast Guard

Coast Guard Academy superintendent make excuses for sexual predators

The United States Coast Guard Academy reports 10% of all female cadets  experienced unwanted sexual contact, a 2% increase from the previous year. More than half of the women that reported sexual abuse had said alcohol and/or drugs were used as a tool to commit these crimes.   Unwanted sexual contact includes a range of behaviors, from sexual assault to rape.

Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz the academy’s superintendent calls the increase of sexual abuse as “somewhat natural”. She was quoted in a New London-The Day article saying:

“If, one time, a guy or gal is clumsy or stupid and tries to touch someone and they’re repulsed, they learn. Someone who goes around and keeps trying many times, that’s a different kind of behavior than someone who is awkward and experimenting.”

Sexual assault is not being “clumsy” or “stupid” but a violent crime –a felony with lifelong consequences for the survivor. Sexual Assault is sexual assault regardless if it happened once or if it happened repetitively over a period of time. The Coast Guard Academy should not tolerate sexual assault and the superintendent should stop making excuses for sex predators.

Shannon Norenberg, the new sexual assault response coordinator for the Coast Guard Academy tells The Day that she plans to teach the cadets what they should do to protect themselves. By teaching cadets on how “not to get raped” we are putting the responsibility of preventing rape on the woman and not on the rapist.

Rape is not caused by an outfit or by how much someone drinks. Rape is caused only by the rapist-the Coast Guard needs to stop blaming the victim and end rape by telling men to not rape and start prosecuting men that do rape. The most effective way to reduce sexual assault and rape is to eradicate a culture in which sex crime is acceptable.

The Coast Guard Academy integrated women into the Academy in 1976. The United States Coast Guard’s official website quoted cadets from incoming class in 1976 and many felt that the “only women who found sexual discrimination were those who looked for it”.  Almost 40 years later the attitude towards women at the Academy remained the same.

The Military Rape Crisis Center saw a much needed need for sexual abuse survivors at the Coast Guard Academy and currently offers two support groups in New London specifically for Coast Guard Academy cadets.  A common concern among participants in the groups is that reporting a sex crime is close to impossible and even if they do report the assault “it’ll go nowhere”. Of the 30+ female cadets that responded that they have been victim of a sex crime in the survey only three came forward to report the crimes. In all three cases the United States Coast Guard Academy chose not to prosecute the perpetrators.

While the Department of Defense is trying to make strive in preventing sexual violence within its ranks, the United States Coast Guard which falls under the Department of Homeland Security is falling way behind.

The cadets at the Coast Guard Academy are the future leaders of the United States Coast Guard. When the cadets graduate and become officers they would take with them the knowledge and skills that they learned during their time at the Academy. Along with their specific job skills and leadership skills they have also been taught that sexual assault and rape is “somewhat natural”. They would deal with a rape under their command by thinking that the sexual predator is only being “clumsy” or “stupid”.


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U.S Coast Guard

Collins, Turner, Tsongas Press Coast Guard on STRONG Act Implementation

Washington, D.C. – Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) wrote to the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard to express their concern that the Coast Guard has not yet adopted an expedited transfer policy for victims of sexual violence as have the military departments under the authority of the Department of Defense. The STRONG Act requires the development of sexual assault prevention and response training at every level of professional development. In addition, it affords victims the protection of expedited transfer away from the geographic location of their alleged attacker.

“While we understand the Coast Guard is not under the authority of the Department of Defense absent a formal declaration of war, the spirit and intent of this law are to eliminate impediments to preventing sexual assault and provide for the protection of sexual violence victims throughout our nation’s Armed Services, including the Coast Guard,” wrote the lawmakers.

In the event that there are policies that cannot be implemented to align Coast Guard policy in a manner consistent with the provisions of the STRONG Act absent legislation, the lawmakers have requested that the Commandant provide a list of such necessary changes to statute.

“We respectfully request, therefore, a briefing no later than March 8, 2013 on the sexual assault response regulations, programs, and services that exist in the Coast Guard and how these policies align with the requirements of the STRONG Act….We also specifically request that the Coast Guard implement new policies to provide for the provision of expedited consideration of a request for transfer,” added the lawmakers.

The Military Rape Crisis Center has worked with these lawmakers to ensure that Coast Guard rape survivors are not left out from life saving legislation made available to the Department of Defense.

If you are a survivor of Military Sexual Trauma—or know someone who is—and need help, contact the Military Rape Crisis Center at