Today Congresswoman Chellie Pingree applauded an Obama Administration Executive Order that will allow victims of military sexual assault to keep their conversations with advocates confidential.
"Far too many of our men and women in uniform don't seek help when they've been sexually assaulted. A lot of that is due to a fear of retribution from their attackers--often superiors--if they say anything," said Pingree. "They go it alone for fear of jeopardizing their careers, which is a tragedy. We need to better protect these veterans so they feel comfortable getting help. Letting them know their conversations are confidential is a big step. As we address the critical problem of military sexual assault, we have to continue breaking down barriers that keep victims from getting the assistance they need and deserve."
Pingree is a cosponsor of legislation, the Strong Act, which would also make this change in policy.
As a member of the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, Pingree has been a strong advocate for victims for military sexual assault. She has introduced legislation that would make it is easier for victims to claim benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder arising from their assault, and is also working directly with the Veterans Administration to make this change. Pingree has also been working with administration officials to change the wording of security clearance applications so that victims of military sexual trauma do not have to disclose counseling they received for their assault--one reason service members may not seek counseling is because they fear it will hinder their application.
In 2010, the Pentagon says there were 3,000 reported cases of military sexual trauma, but estimates that only 10 percent of cases were reported.