Women In Congress Leading The Charge On Changing The Culture Of Sexual Assault In The Military

This week, our nation has been exposed to the chilling reality that sexual assault in the military is an epidemic.

It’s estimated that 26,000 service members were assaulted last year alone. That’s a 35% increase from 2010 and what’s worse, only 3,000 of those rapes were actually reported, and only 1,714 cases were actually resolved.

And now we’re learning that military leaders tasked with tackling this problem have themselves been a part of it, and must be held responsible for their own shameful offenses.

But while this problem isn't new, the attention it's getting is. And EMILY's List women in Congress are front and center. They are changing outrage into action and leading this fight to change the culture in the military.

It’s a reminder that who we elect to office matters. These actions are coming at a time when there are a record number of women in both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees – it’s hard not to see a correlation.

This week, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Barbara Boxer introduced a bill that would change would dramatically change the process by which decisions are made in sexual assault cases in the military, empowering victims to pursue justice in a safe and fair environment. Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced a bill that would prevent convicted sexual offenders from enlisting or being commissioned in the military. And in light of the revelation that military members who are in sexual assault prevention positions are actually accused of assault themselves, Senator Claire McCaskill introduced legislation that would set new criteria for who can serve in those positions. With our best military leaders taking on sexual assault prevention roles, victims of assault will be better served.

Women in the House and in the Senate, are introducing laws that would prevent commanders from unilaterally overturning convictions, would actually dishonorably discharge convicted rapists from the military, and help stop some of this violence before it starts by preventing convicted rapists from enlisting in the first place.

But this is not a new focus, women in Congress have been fighting for the women who fight for our country for years. Senator Jeanne Shaheen last year passed an amendment that would allow women who are raped in the military access to safe, legal abortion services. That legislation had been a priority of women in Congress for years, and now it’s a reality. And with the election of our first Congresswomen with combat experience – Tulsi Gabbard and Tammy Duckworth – we know that the voice of servicewomen is truly being heard in Congress.

We still have a long way to go before victims of sexual assault in the military receive justice. But this week we have seen meaningful, clear steps being taken to get there.

If just a few good women can ignite this kind of progress, imagine what we can achieve with even more.

 

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Shari Olefson's picture
Shari Olefson

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