Four days after the arrest of the officer who headed the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention and response branch on a charge of sexual battery, senior White House advisers met with a bipartisan group of members of Congress Thursday about how to fight the growing number of sexual assaults in the military.
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a member of the Armed Services Committee, was among those who attended. She said one of the topics they talked about was how difficult it can be to report the crimes.
“What happens to your career path, that’s a huge concern,” said Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat. She said she heard about assaults firsthand from service members.
“It’s really a crisis,” She said. “We have got to take action to prevent this from continuing to happen.”
Hagan said new Defense Department estimates show that more than 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 in 2010. But only 3,374 sexual assaults were reported last year.
Another matter discussed was that military members who are assaulted should have advocates for support, she said.
The White House in a statement said only that the group discussed legislative proposals and steps the administration could take “to hold offenders accountable, improve the reporting process, support victims and work towards the prevention of sexual assault.” An official declined to be more specific.
Hagan said she planned to call on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel soon for an update on how the department was putting new requirements to reduce military sexual assault into practice. The provisions were part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed in December. They included a requirement that Hagel improve the military’s ability to investigate and prosecute sexual assault cases.
— Renee Schoof, McClatchy Washington Bureau