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U.S. Reps. Gabbard, Duckworth interviewed about military sex assaults

By Star-Advertiser staff & Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:19 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.

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Anonymous wrote:
Scary - and the sexual assaults aren't limited to women either. No one should have to put their life on the line for our country and be faced with living in an environment of violence and fear. Clearly outside intervention is needed since this issue has already been on the burner for years.
on May 11,2013 | 04:01PM
Skyler wrote:
Agreed. And while there isn't much to add, I do know someone in the military that was sexually assaulted and still has a hard time dealing with what happened. There appears to be no 'safe haven' in the military culture for people who are sexually assaulted - and there should be.
on May 11,2013 | 05:57PM
Hawaiians wrote:
This culture of condoning sexual violence needs to stop. There's no excuse for it going on for so long
on May 11,2013 | 04:07PM
Bdpapa wrote:
You got 18-22 year old young men far from home. What do you expect? Sexual vioence is not acceptable but consider the circumstances. There definitely need a separation of the sexes. Integration will not work. This is a hard thing but bottom line we should not put any soldier in a bad psoition when it comes to sex.
on May 11,2013 | 06:16PM
Waterman2 wrote:
There was a reason why the troops were separated men from women and "gays" were drummed out........but no, the old ways weren't good enough, so now we see man on man rapes as well as man on woman........and only the devil knows what all else. We aren't at war anyway are we ?
on May 11,2013 | 08:42PM
Skyler wrote:
Honestly, I hear what you're saying... but it's not just women getting assaulted: It's men, too. How do you segregate that?? The person I know that it happened to isn't gay, but he was sexually accosted by another male soldier. He feels he can't just go to his CO & file a complaint, so the whole situation affected him pretty badly.

In general (not just military, but that's the subject), it's basically a matter of 'we can't control it so watch out.' Not good enough, imho - where's the discipline? We're better than that as (mostly) principled people of a great country, and I hope these two good US Representatives can bring that to light and help find a solution to this issue.
on May 11,2013 | 09:51PM
environmental_lady wrote:
Why would women even want to serve in such a toxic atmosphere in the military? Is this a pride thing that a woman can serve in the same capacity as a man? Unless she is steeped in self-defense tactics, it's a lose situation for her.
on May 11,2013 | 08:41PM
serious wrote:
I think, yes the opportunities are there for advancement and certainly, for the same reason men join, the retirement at 20 years and the benefits. Look at the number of women graduating from the service academies. The recent KC-135 crash on takeoff was piloted by a woman. But looking at the chain of command--on each step up the "highers" can change a jury decision. Look at the number of criminals Clinton pardoned???
on May 12,2013 | 07:37AM
AFx32 wrote:
Glad to hear that the DOD is finally doing something constructive to fix this problem. The problem has been that our soldiers have had to report these incidents through their chain - of - command who oftentimes were the perpetrator, were the perpetrator's buddy, or just didn't want a black mark on their organization. Unfortunately, what happened all too often was that the victims complaint was not investigated and the victim was subjected to retaliation.
on May 11,2013 | 11:54PM
bender wrote:
I think part of the problem too is that the military has had to lower its standards in order to recruit enough people for the all volunteer force. That brings the increased risk of all kinds of misbehavior including sexual assaults. As pointed out by Waterman2, this would not have been allowed to take root in the military of the past.
on May 12,2013 | 05:55AM
LMO wrote:
The conviction rate of those cases that do go to trial (less than 300 a year) is less than one percent! The entire system is broken, and the military has no idea how to fix it. It's like they throw pudding at the wall and hope something sticks.
on May 12,2013 | 09:37AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Gabbard’s comment that “The commander should not have the power to overturn a jury's verdict” shows she did not learn much about the military justice system while serving on active duty or in a reserve component. She should know that military courts-martial are convened by commanders who also must review, approve or disapprove of jury findings. They do it no matter what the offense might be. Duckworth and Gabbard also are very wrong in their support of having independent investigators within the military take charge of sexual assault allegations free of commanders who can reverse a military court’s decision. The military justice system has worked exceedingly well since it was created many years ago. Yes, there occasionally are questionable cases, just like in civilian courts, but you do not dismantle or restructure the system or make exceptions for a particular offense. If you do, you open the door to making exceptions for other offenses when someone perceives an injustice because an accused is a racial minority, gay or transgender, short or tall, skinny or fat or other nonsensical reason. Chaos soon will follow.
on May 12,2013 | 01:54PM
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