Victims of sexual assault in the military are pointing to an unofficial Air Force "songbook" -- which glorifies rape and violence -- to help build the case for prosecuting crimes outside the command structure of the military.
A lawsuit filed in the federal Eastern District Court of Virginia on Tuesday alleged instances of retaliation, sexual harassment and abuse up the military chain of command. The lawsuit presses the military to ensure that commanders who have been involved in sexual assault cases are not presiding over those same cases, Susan Burke, a Baltimore attorney representing four military members, said.
Burke cited the songbook, containing dozens of sexist and violent lyrics, which was uncovered previously by former Tech Sgt. Jennifer Smith. At the time, Smith said she filed an administrative complaint over the book in 2012 -- yet the general assigned to address her complaint sang the sexist songs with the airmen regularly.
The 130-page songbook contains 70 songs – many with questionable titles, including “Pubic Hair,” “The Kotex Song” and “Will You Suck Me Tomorrow?”
The book is professionally printed and bound and bears a resemblance to an official Air Force publication. The bottom of the pages, though, are labeled “For Unofficial Use Only.”
The songbook is one of several allegations of misconduct mentioned in the 44-page suit made public to reporters this week, ABC News reported.
Burke, a leader of a movement to reform how the military handles sexual assault cases, wants to overhaul the Armed Forces’ judicial process. It’s a campaign that’s been fought not only in court but also in Congress.
Currently, if a sexual assault accusation is made, a military commander decides whether the complaint is worth proceeding to a military trial. Critics claim that the military justice system is full of conflicts of interest and that the system isn’t fair.
Retired Air Force Col. Don Christensen, president of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy organization, told Stars and Stripes that the songbook “is something that is used by Air Force officers today.”
“These are the commanders who sing songs about raping women as fun,” Christensen said.
Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Brooke Brzozowske told ABC News she didn’t know the current status of the book but that it was being looked into.