We Must Act Now to Address
Sexual Assault in the Military
I’m appalled by stories of sexual assault I hear from our service members.
One woman was attacked by her fellow Marine in her barracks. No one heard her cries for help. The next day, she reported the assault to her superiors.
The military launched an investigation that lasted months. The woman was alienated by her peers, who called her derogatory names. Her Sergeant Major told her the assault was her fault, that she must have encouraged the attacker. The investigation went nowhere. Nobody was held accountable.
I will not stand for sexual assault in our military. Service members risk their lives around the world as they engage our enemies on the battlefield; they should not have to worry about their personal safety on our bases at home and around the world.
Sexual assault victims in the military believe reporting the crime will jeopardize their careers. They fear losing opportunities for career advancement that they’ve earned through years of hard work. This is unacceptable. The men and women of our armed forces deserve better.
At a high-level White House meeting, I joined colleagues from both parties to discuss concrete steps we can take to protect victims and address the epidemic of sexual assault in our military. Last year’s Defense Authorization Act included provisions to do just this. That law:
•Established independent review boards to examine how the military handles sexual assault;
•Created a special victims unit;
•Ensured the military bars convicted offenders; and
•Improved the military’s data collection for sexual assaults
But talk is not enough when it comes to fixing this crisis. During his confirmation process, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel assured me he would fully implement these directives, and last week I"requested that he report to Congress immediately on his progress.
There are some who say this problem can’t be fixed. They chalk the problem up to the culture in our military. But I won’t accept that for our men and women in uniform. Our servicemembers have put their lives on the line to protect us, and we simply cannot wait another day to step up to protect them.
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