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Lawmakers hold hearing to investigate sexual assault in the military

Posted at 10:59 PM, Mar 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 00:00:22-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate Committee on Armed Services used their first meeting of the year to hear gripping and disturbing testimony about sexual assault in the military.

“The DoD’s most recent survey estimated almost 21,000 service members were sexually assaulted in 2018. That makes them more likely to be raped by one of their service members than shot by the enemy in war,” said U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services Chairwoman Senator Kristen Gillibrand.

Survivors, victim advocates and more all shared deeply personal stories of how change can protect victims and stop sexual assault.

“This person betrayed that trust when they sexually assaulted me after a unit function. This experience nearly destroyed me, our marriage and it has ruined my husband’s Air Force career,” said sexual assault survivor, Amy Marsh.

Natalie Khawam, attorney for the family of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, was among the first to testify.

“There was cover-up after cover-up, lies after lies,” she said. "This family [Guillen family] went through so much, and they’re still going through it. Look at these reports that are coming out, and they still don’t have answers. We need change, we need legislation.”

Sen. Gillibrand, Sen. Thom Tillis and other committee members shared their thoughts.

“How do you say that it’s an epidemic in the military, but it’s fair to say with the same cohorts in society, it’s even worse than that,” said Sen. Tillis.

During the hearing, defenders of the current system said it works. They also said Sen. Gillibrand’s information doesn't tell the whole story, such as punishments outside of convictions.

Despite this, Sen. Gillibrand plans to continue to push Congress to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act, which takes away sexual assault investigations from the victim’s chain of command and redirects it to professional prosecutors.

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