WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 14, 2013) — U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum today introduced legislation to establish a special U.S. House committee to conduct oversight, ensure accountability, and report on sexual assault and abuse in the U.S. military.
Responding the on-going and ever growing problem of sexual violence and abuse committed by members of the military, the “Special Committee on Sexual Assault and Abuse in the Armed Forces” would focus congressional attention on necessary reforms to the Department of Defense’s prevention, prosecution, and victims’ services efforts.
The Pentagon’s “Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military,” released last week, indicated that an estimated 26,000 sexual assault or incidents of “unwanted sexual contact” took place in 2012, compared to 19,300 in 2011 (based on an anonymous survey). Actual assaults reported in 2012 were 3,374, an increase over 2011.
“Sexual violence and abuse in the military needs to end – period. It is an unfair stain on the honorable service of all the men and women who put on the uniform that must be extinguished. An all out culture change from top-to-bottom is required, along with reforms that reflect the severity of the problem,” McCollum said. “This special committee will allow Congress to address this problem in a focused, comprehensive and bipartisan manner. This will require on-going attention. The Pentagon’s budget exceeds $500 billion, we are at war in Afghanistan, and global threats are constantly emerging, all of which distract Congress from holding military leaders accountable for making real change. This special committee will maintain on-going pressure on the Pentagon to end a culture in which rape and abuse are far too common and all too commonly dismissed.”
High profile incidents of sexual assault committed by members of the military plague all branches of the Armed Forces, even as leaders claim to be making this issue a top priority. Last week, the Air Force’s officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programs was arrested in Arlington, VA for sexual battery highlighting a federal department with a problem that is out of control.
The Washington Post, in a front page story entitled, “Pentagon’s sex-crime crisis extends to military recruiters,” reported yesterday that a Marine in Alaska convicted of first-degree sexual assault in the rape of civilian woman but not sentenced to prison. The story also told of an Air Force recruiter in Texas who will soon face charges of rape and forcible sodomy with 18 young women he tried to recruit in recent years.
The “Pentagon’s sex crime crisis” has been on-going for years and is a greater threat to the force now because of the greater number of women serving and the dependence by all branches of the military for an ever expanding role for women service members.
Congresswoman Betty McCollum serves on the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee.