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Rep. McCollum Calls for Special Committee on Military Sexual Assaults

PHOTO: With the crisis over sexual assaults in the military growing as more details emerge, a Minnesota lawmaker is calling for an extensive investigation by the U.S. House.
PHOTO: With the crisis over sexual assaults in the military growing as more details emerge, a Minnesota lawmaker is calling for an extensive investigation by the U.S. House.
May 22, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. - With the crisis over sexual assaults in the military growing as more details emerge by the week, a Minnesota congresswoman is calling for an extensive investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., has introduced legislation to establish a "Special Committee on Sexual Assault and Abuse in the Armed Forces."

"They're supposed to be a 'band of brothers and sisters' who have each others' backs, so this is extraordinarily disturbing," she said. "This past Congress, I have been appointed to the Defense Subcommittee in Appropriations, and so this is really on my plate now, even more so."

According to Pentagon estimates, there were 26,000 sexual assaults or incidents of "unwanted sexual contact" in the military last year. Sexual assault can lead some victims to substance abuse and trigger various health problems - including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression - in others.

It's time for lawmakers to step in and change the culture from top to bottom, McCollum said, especially considering that some of those hired by the Pentagon to help victims allegedly perpetrated sex crimes.

"I think Congress has a responsibility to say to the Pentagon, 'Look, we're going to crack down on this and we're going to hold you accountable, but we're going to give you every tool you need to make this epidemic of sexual violence go away in our military'," she said.

McCollum called the sexual assault epidemic "an unfair stain on the honorable men and women who serve," and said the Defense Department must reform its efforts around prevention, prosecution and victim services.

The text of McCollum's resolution is online at mccollum.house.gov.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN