(Rep. John Shadegg) – As you well know, it’s nearly impossible and frankly, unheard-of for Republicans to pass legislation in Speaker Pelosi’s liberal Congress. However, last Friday, legislation that I have been working on for three years passed in the House of Representatives!
The U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment, known as Jenny’s Law, denying veterans convicted of forcible rape from receiving full military burial honors. Sadly, the amendment arose because of the rape in 2001 of a young college graduate named Jenny, in Tucson, Arizona by serial rapist, James Allen Selby, who was also a military veteran. The amendment was included in the National Defense Authorization Act.
Current law entitles military veterans to be buried in a veterans or national cemetery, and to receive other honorary emoluments including a military honor guard, a U.S. flag, and a certificate from the President. While Congress banned veterans convicted of a capital crime from receiving these honors following the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh, veterans convicted of forcible rape remain entitled to these honors.
Victims of forcible rape deserve better. Current law affording these honors to veterans convicted of rape is an outrage and results in victims and their families being victimized all over again. The amendment I was able to convince Congress to adopt will end this practice.
It was Halloween in 2001 in Tucson, Arizona, when Jenny, a recent college graduate, returned home after work and was confronted by James Allen Selby. Selby jumped out of a closet, hauled her into the shower, bound her hands and ankles with duct tape, and raped her at knife point.
Selby was caught and tried in Pima County. He had raped 10 other women including a nine year old girl. On the morning Selby was to be sentenced, he hanged himself in his jail cell. To the shock of Jenny, her family, and the other victims, Selby was afforded a burial at Fort Sill National Cemetery, with full military benefits, including a military honor guard, a U.S. flag, and a certificate from the President.
It demeans the honor of all those who have served this nation to allow a perpetrator of such a heinous crime to be buried alongside America’s heroes in a veterans cemetery.
In 2007, I was approached by Jenny’s father, Steve Bush to end this practice, and I introduced Jenny’s Law that year, and each year since. Both Steve Bush and his daughter Jenny, along with many other victims groups have fought to end this outrageous injustice. Groups including the Military Order of the Purple Heart also support Jenny’s Law.
I am happy to have been able to finally secure passage of Jenny’s Law so that no rape victim will suffer the pain of watching the individual convicted of raping her be buried in a military cemetery with full military honors.
(John Shadegg is a Republican congressman from Arizona)