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As Lackland Air Force Base Scandal Widens, Tailhook Whistleblower To Demand Hearing

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Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Walker arrives for the fourth day of his trial at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/San Antonio Express News, Billy Calzada)
Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Walker arrives for the fourth day of his trial at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/San Antonio Express News, Billy Calzada)

At least 83 women were sexually assaulted or molested in 1991 at the Las Vegas convention of the Tailhook Association, a group of active-duty and retired Navy and Marine Corps and civilians, according to Pentagon investigators. Just over 20 years since the Tailhook scandal, a military jury on July 20 convicted an instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, on 28 counts, part of a growing scandal in which at least 11 other instructors are being investigated on charges of sexual assault against at least 31 female recruits.

The whistleblower who came forward to expose the Tailhook scandal, Paula Coughlin-Puopolo, along with several military sexual assault survivors and victim advocates, will deliver some 10,000 signatures to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, demanding an open congressional hearing on Lackland, according to Brian Purchia of Protect Our Defenders.

McKeon will hold a closed-door briefing on the scandal Thursday.

Coughlin-Puopolo, a former naval aviator and a member of the Protect Our Defenders advocacy board, started an online petition roughly three weeks ago in the hopes of preventing other similar scandals.

In fiscal year 2011, there were 3,192 total reports of military sexual assault, according to the Department of Defense. Each year, the majority of sexual assault reports involve the victimization of service members by other service members, according to the DOD. Nearly 90 percent of victims in reported incidents of military sexual assualt were female and were largely under the age of 25 and of a lower rank. The "vast majority" of alleged perpetrators were male, older and of a higher rank. Of the 3,192 total reports of military sexual assualt, only 191 of the accused -- out of the 240 actually taken to trial -- were convicted by a courts martial.

According to the DOD, more than 75 percent of military sexual assault incidents go unreported.

"It is time for our elected officials that have been put in charge of oversight of our armed services to do their job," Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders, said in a press release Thursday. "We must not let Lackland become another footnote in history of government failing to fix the epidemic of sexual assault in our military."

CORRECTION: This article previously misspelled "Tailhook" as "Talihook."

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