POSTED: 3:46 p.m. HST, May 11, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 8:19 a.m. HST, May 12, 2013
Two members of Congress, both women war veterans with ties to Hawaii, appeared on CNN's Sunday Washington talk show "State of the Union" to talk about the alarming rise in sex assaults in the military.
Hawaii U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) and Illinois U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D), a McKinley High School and University of Hawaii Manoa graduate, were interviewed for the show hosted by CNN Washington reporter Candy Crowley.
A Pentagon report, released Tuesday, estimated that up to 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year.
The report came just days after the Air Force's head of sexual assault prevention was arrested on charges of groping a woman in a Northern Virginia parking lot. And it followed a heated debate over whether commanders should be stripped of the authority to overturn military jury verdicts, such as one officer did in a recent sexual assault conviction.
In the pre-taped interview, Duckworth told Crowley, “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, have shown that they have not been capable of fixing this problem.”
“The commander should not have the power to overturn a jury's verdict,” Gabbard said.
Duckworth and Gabbard said they both support having independent investigators within the military take charge of sexual assault allegations free of commanders who can reverse a military court’s decision.
According to Pentagon documents, the key conclusion of the report is that "sexual assault is a persistent problem in the military and remains vastly underreported."
The report said that of the 1.4 million active duty personnel, 6.1 percent of active duty women — or 12,100 — say they experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, a sharp increase over the 8,600 who said that in 2010. For men, the number increased from 10,700 to 13,900. A majority of the offenders were military members or Defense Department civilians or contractors, the report said.
The interview with Gabbard and Duckworth airs on CNN at 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Hawaii time Sunday.