Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Strongly Urges Armed Services Committee to Address Military Sexual Assault

June 12, 2019
Press Release
Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), spoke in support of an amendment to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to create a pilot program on prosecution of special victim offenses by attendees of military service academies offered by Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14).
Here is an excerpt of her remarks:
“Evidence and reports that we continue to see come out year after year show that the system that we have in place is not working.  Reports show that there has been a 38% increase in sexual assault in the military from 2016 to 2018 alone … I have served both as an enlisted Soldier as well as a company commander.   … We must get at the heart of making sure that we, as servicemembers, have a justice system that works for us.”
A transcript of her remarks follow and a video of her full remarks may be viewed here:
“Thank you Mr. Chairman, I speak in opposition to the substitute amendment and support the underlying measure.
“This one hits close to home for a number of reasons. You know, there has been a lot of talk about legislation that has been passed, initiatives that have been put forward, commissions that have come together and made recommendations to Congress.  But, the evidence and the reports that we continue to see come out year after year show that the system we have in place is not working.
“The reports that Acting Secretary Shanahan recently talked about show that there has been a 38% increase in sexual assault in the military from 2016 to 2018 alone.
“One thing I want to note, in the years that we have been debating this issue especially in this committee, the commissions that are being referenced to my recollection, they represent general officers, officers, or retired officers. Time and time again, we see a lack of representation coming from anyone in the enlisted ranks. No command Sergeant Majors coming forward and yet, who is the number one target of sexual assault in the military? Enlisted, female, troops aged 17-24, E3s and E4s. It is their voices that are not being represented.
“So, time and time again we hear about ‘we have got to protect command authority.’ I agree with that. I served both as an enlisted soldier, for 5 years, up until being in E4 I went through OCS, commissioned as lieutenant, and also served as a company commander. I respect the need for command authority, but I also understand what it’s like to be an enlisted soldier, where you don’t feel comfortable going and speaking to that commander.
“I have served under commanders that have done the right thing. I have also served under commanders who have not, who have abused their power, who have not fulfilled that responsibility. They have to serve and protect their own troops under their command.
“So, I think the point here is we’re looking for other solutions and other opportunities to make sure that the justice system we have in place actually protects the victims of sexual assault in the military.
“Congresswoman Speier has talked about how, in our service academies the statistics she mentioned, none of those sexual assaults had been reported. None had been reported. Why is that? How can you talk about prevention unless these things are actually being reported?
“What I have heard from people who I know personally, is they have not reported their being a victim of sexual assault because they have no faith that their command will stand up for them. They have no faith in a fair, transparent justice system that will not result in retaliation, that will not result in them being sequestered from their comrades, that will not result in them being pointed out and saying, ‘Oh, she is one of those. Watch out. Stay away from her. She’s a trouble-maker. She causes problems. She is ruining the cohesion within the unit,’ when, in fact, the opposite is true. It is the perpetrator of these crimes who are violating the unit cohesion that is necessary in every one of our units — small units and large units.
“So, I can’t speak strongly enough for Congresswoman Speier’s efforts to look at other avenues to begin to get at the heart of making sure that we, as servicemembers, have a justice system that works for us.
“I yield back.”
Background: Since her first term in Congress, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been outspoken in her support for victims of military sexual assault as well as led efforts to secure justice, address the trauma they face, and ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs is equipped to address their needs. Earlier this year, she cosponsored Harmony’s Law which would help prevent those convicted and found guilty of rape in the military from being freed from jail on a misconstrued technicality due to the U.S. v. Mangahas ruling.
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawaii’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for 16 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard...
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