May 12th, 2013
11:48 AM ET
10 years ago

Female veterans in Congress decry military’s handling of sexual assaults

(CNN) – The way the military has prosecuted sexual assaults within its ranks is deplorable, two congresswomen who have served in the armed forces said Sunday, calling for a new system for reporting those kinds of crimes.

Reps. Tammy Duckworth and Tulsi Gabbard, both Democrats, said last week’s report indicating a 30% rise in the number of service members anonymously reporting sexual assaults was an indication the military’s leadership has failed in its duty to protect members of the armed forces.

“I want the military to be a place where women can succeed and thrive the way I was able to. And the military leadership at this point has shown that they have not been capable of fixing this problem,” said Duckworth, who represents Illinois and is an Iraq War veteran.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Duckworth argued that individuals in positions of power should be able to halt the problem, but have thus far failed in their attempts to stop sexual abuse.

“The military, because it's built on power and rank, has the ability to fix it based on that same tradition of power and rank. Commanders can put an end to this. And I am very, very disturbed that they have not been able to do this,” she told chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Gabbard said establishing a “victim-centered” system was a first step toward improving the way the military handles cases of sexual assault, but added that those who hold power often abuse it.

“We have to make sure we are investigating those who are retaliating and abusing their positions of command or power,” Gabbard said. Also an Iraq veteran, Gabbard represents Hawaii.

Both lawmakers said the existing Uniform Code of Military Justice had proven inadequate in handling cases of sexual assault, and suggested instead that a separate structure, still within the military, be used to prosecute those crimes.

“I've been a supporter of the system - of the UCMJ - until this point. But this is such an aberration, this is horrendous, it's so unacceptable that this is time to take a next very serious step,” Duckworth said.

Filed under: Congress • Military
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. scottthinks

    These vets are correct!

    May 12, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  2. scottthinks

    I agree with these fellow vets on this!

    May 12, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  3. Karen

    More men than women have been assaulted in the military(12,600 v. 13,000). Attacks against men have gone up 30% since Don't Ask Don't Tell was lifted. Don't deny the facts. This is not only about women, and the female senators should acknowledge that.

    May 12, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. Jeff Morris

    I am calling on U.S. Representatives Tammy Duckworth and Tulsi Gabbard to fully support and endorse the RUTH-MOORE BILL introduced by US Representative Chellie Pingree.

    May 12, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  5. Pk duster

    Good for them we nef to get more wmen in both houses to act i am former military it takes the military so long and a sound issue to act

    May 12, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  6. political correctness gone mad

    let's see... let's mix a bunch of women and gay guys with a large number of alpha males and let's act shocked and surprised this is happening.... yes, let's simply purge the military of all those mean nasty aggressive males because they are such a detriment to the military. i am sure our remaining army of women and gay guys will defeat our advesaries no problem.

    May 12, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  7. Pk duster

    When i was in vietnam i had a soilder make sexaul advance nents at me he was married other troops heard him stoped his r and r r and was put in another unit

    May 12, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  8. allenspeaks

    And people can't understand why the military was so resistant to allow coed and homosexual integration. Good soldiers are required to be Alpha males, the rest need to stay in the rear with the gear.

    May 12, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  9. S.B. Stein

    The idea that a commander who is in charge can change a jury's decision doesn't match what most of what Americans think should happen.

    May 12, 2013 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  10. Thomas

    Action needs to be taken to insure this behavor stops . It's been going on to long .

    The milaary and even those in congress , prdomintly male have avoided this issure .

    May 13, 2013 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  11. K. Robert

    For years, reports on Military Sexual Trauma were published with caveats that the military suspected the level of assault was actually higher then reported. While the numbers have spiked, is there any sense that these more recent numbers are more indicative of reality, and not an aberration? Either way, how it is handled within separate commands must be the same regardless of service or rank.

    May 13, 2013 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  12. Cephus

    Don't ask don't tell served the military perfectly but it had to be trashed for political donations from the farthest left

    May 13, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |