U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) released the following statement today after the Defense Department released a new Health-Related Behaviors Survey of Active Duty Military Personnel for 2011, that shows more than 1 in 5 female servicemembers reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact. It appears from the survey done every three years that a higher percentage of men and women reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact from the 2008 survey.
This past March, as chair of the Subcommittee on Personnel, Gillibrand held the first Senate hearing in nearly a decade examining the growing epidemic of sexual violence in the military. Click here to watch Gillibrand's aggressive questioning of the military brass.
The Senator is currently working with several of her colleagues in drafting legislation aimed to increase reporting and accountability within the military justice system by removing decision-making concerning violent crimes from the chain of command.
"The issue of sexual violence in the military is not new. And it has been allowed to go on in the shadows for far too long. Today's report is deeply troubling because it appears a higher percentage of men and women servicemembers were abused than the previous report three years ago, not less. The scourge of sexual violence in the military should be intolerable and infuriating to us all. Having more than 1 in 5 women report unwanted sexual contact is simply unacceptable.
"Our best, brightest, and bravest join our armed forces for all the right reasons -- to serve our country, protect our freedom, and keep America safe. Too often, women and men have found themselves in the fight of their lives not in the theater of war -- but in their own ranks, among their own brothers and sisters, and ranking officers, in an environment that enables sexual assault.
"Congress would be derelict in its duty of oversight if we just shrugged our shoulders at these sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and did nothing. We simply have to do better by them. Because not only does sexual assault cause unconscionable harm to the victim -- sexual violence is reported to be the leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder among women veterans -- but it destabilizes our military, threatens unit cohesion and national security.
"The victims who participated in our Senate hearing testified of the need to move the decision making in these cases from the chain of command to independent prosecutors with the proper training. This is a common sense step towards increasing the amount of reporting and accountability in the military justice system and I look forward to continuing our important work with my colleagues on legislation to accomplish this goal."