This pledge closed 5 months ago
The Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that over half a million veterans have now experienced military sexual trauma (MST). One year ago, Congresswoman Jackie Speier introduced the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act – or STOP Act (H.R. 3435) to help fix this epidemic. The MST legislation has 133 co-sponsors and hundreds of veterans supporting it, but the Chairmen of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Los Angeles County) has yet to allow it to be heard by his committee.
Today we are asking that you all contact Rep. Buck McKeon to allow it to be heard in the House Armed Services Committee.
Contact his office: Claude Chafin, Claude.Chafin@mail.house.gov (202) 225-4151
Victims of sexual assault in the military are required to report their attack to a superior, not law enforcement or medical personnel. This has been and remains a recipe for disaster. A year ago, Protect Our Defenders brought survivors to Washington to celebrate the introduction of the STOP Act – a solution to this epidemic supported by 133 representatives.
Since the legislation was introduced a year ago, it is estimated that more than 19,000 service members have been raped or sexually assaulted. And only 13.5% of those victims will come forward, primarily out of fear of retaliation, and of those few who come forward, more than 80% if given the chance would not do so again. During the past year, there has been a powerful new film, The Invisible War with the personal stories behind the shocking statistics, a wide-ranging military sexual abuse scandal at Lackland Air Force Base and military brass has told Congress what they have been doing to address the epidemic of sexual assaults in our military is 'not working.'
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced several reforms to address what he calls a 'silent epidemic' of military sexual assaults, like bumping the reporting of rape and sexual assault further up the chain of command. But, it does little to address the problem. Many survivors, have made it clear that senior commanders are just as capable of covering up assaults and they frequently do. Commanders are incentivized to sweep problems under the rug, as their careers can be adversely affected if a rape or sexual assault is reported on their watch. And the DOD reports, '39% of women report that the perpetrator was a military person of higher rank and 23% indicated the offender was someone in their chain of command.'
Congress has the power to fix the problem, but they have not.
For real change to take place, our elected leaders must legislate fundamental reform. The STOP Act addresses the core issue. It removes the reporting, oversight, investigation, and victim care from the normal chain of command and places it in the hands of an unbiased office comprised of civilian and military experts. But, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon has yet to allow the STOP Act to even be heard by his committee. Today, we ask Rep. McKeon to honor our men and women in uniform and let the STOP Act and real solutions to the epidemic in our armed forces be heard.
Congress has held 17 hearings over the past 25 years, but incremental steps taken by the Pentagon to address the problem of rape, sexual assault and harassment have failed. The prevalence of rape of both men and women in our military, the failure to prosecute perpetrators and the retaliation against victims continues to undermine readiness, unit cohesion and morale.
Contact Rep. Buck McKeon to allow it to be heard in the House Armed Service Committee. Contact his office: Claude Chafin, Claude.Chafin@mail.house.gov (202) 225-4151