As a new member of the House Armed Service Committee, it has been especially troubling to hear of the rise of sexual assaults in the military. According to the Pentagon, there has been nearly a 35 percent increase in sexual assaults in the U.S. military since 2010. This statistic is one of the reasons I’ve spent the last couple months working on ways to address this problem.

Any man or woman that enters the service does so with a strong love for country, and with full knowledge and understanding that he or she may be called to serve the U.S. in times of danger. Soldiers should feel safe around their fellow service members and should never feel threatened in their presence.

I recently announced several provisions to improve sexual assault investigations, establish qualifications for sexual assault prevention and support personnel positions, and to develop basic training standards for sexual assault prevention.

I believe there is room to improve the investigation of sex-related offenses, so I’m looking at ways to give commanders better information in the form of an expert opinion when dealing with sexual assault crimes. This policy change would direct the Secretary of Defense to standardize recommendations by military criminal investigative organizations as to whether a sex-related offense is founded or unfounded.

We’ve also heard about those in sexual assault prevention-related positions being accused of sexual crimes. I find this behavior abhorrent. These highly sensitive positions are intended to be filled by those who can provide comfort, aid and assistance to victims of sexual assault, who may be reluctant to come forward in the first place. I believe the military needs to raise the bar for these individuals and I propose that the Secretary of Defense be required to establish stronger selection criteria for these positions.

There’s also room to improve basic training plans and materials for sexual assault prevention because we’re currently seeing a lack of consistency from branch to branch. Uniform plans and materials, which is what I am advocating for, would set a basic standard for all branches of service to ensure consistency across our entire military.

Stopping sexual assault in our military is an issue that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can get behind. During my recent trip to Afghanistan, my female colleagues and I had numerous conversations about specific actions that can be taken to change this problem.

We can – and we must – do more. I look forward to further addressing this issue in the coming weeks as we prepare for work on the National Defense Authorization Act and would encourage you to reach out to one of my offices if you have any thoughts or comments to share. Contact information is listed below:

Sioux Falls: 605-275-2868 / Watertown: 605-878-2868 / Aberdeen: 605-262-2862 / Rapid City: 605-791-4673 / Washington, D.C.: 202-225-2801 / Toll-Free: 1-855-225-2801

 

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