Congress Hears Voices of Sexual Assault Survivors in Military

Amie Newman

Today a Congressional commitee conducted an oversight hearing on the status of sexual assault services in the military. Congresswomen and survivors stepped up to testify.

"Reproductive and sexual health and rights" sounds like such an unwieldy and imprecise phrase to describe so many issues that we address on Rewire. The truth is, we’ve yet to come up with a better way to describe so many of these issues. 

Sexual assault, for instance.

It’s about a woman’s right to live free from violence, it’s about sexual health, it’s about your right to bodily autonomy. And, so, it’s critical that we make the connections between sexual assault and reproductive and sexual health and rights.

Consider this: 

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Women serving in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.  

The military has been slow – too slow – to build its capacity, to create an infrastructure for dealing with the rising numbers of sexual assault and rape cases within its ranks. In fact, in March of 2008 the Department of Defense’s fourth
annual report on sexual assault in the military stated that there were 2,688
reported cases of sexual assaults by people in uniform. In addition, reports of sexual assault jumped by about 24 percent in 2006 and nearly
40 percent in 2005.

Thank god for Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York and the parents and victims of sexual assault in the military who have so bravely stepped forward to push, prod and pull the military through this process in order to ensure that the United States military has the tools to deal with sexual assault survivors and cases properly. 

Today, the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs
held a hearing on sexual assault in the military. Representative Louise Slaughter testified. She also reintroduced the Military Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Act, a bill that would do a number of things to protect service members who are victims of sexual violence and their families, including:

  • Establish an Office of Victims Advocate (OVA) within the Department of Defense
  • Strengthen policies for reporting, prosecuting and treating perpetrators of  violence
  • Create counseling and treatment programs through the Department of Veterans Affairs; and
  • Codify rights, restitution policies, treatment and other services for victims…including creating comprehensive confidentiality protocols to protect the rights of victims within military law.


Scheduled to testify as well were: Congresswoman Jane Harman of California; Mary Lauterbach, the mother of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who went missing last year just as she was going to testify in her own rape case and was found dead in the yard of a Marine whom she had accused of rape; Ingrid Torres was also scheduled to testify today as a member of the armed forces and a survivor of rape by a fellow soldier.

In her testimony, Rep. Slaughter reminded the committee that this act would also protect government contracted employees  – women like "Lisa Smith" who was raped while working in Iraq and Tracy Barker, sexually assaulted by another contractor – both employees of KBR.

Ingrid Torres’ remarks are brutal and should be a call to action for Congress and the United States military:

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