Top Pentagon leaders will face scrutiny from members of Congress today as the first hearing on military sexual assault begins today. The hearing, hosted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, will feature testimony from victim-support organizations focused on the military and a wide variety of military officials and legal counsel on the issue.
Many members of congress are outraged over the string of recent sexual assault cases that have been exposed in the military. Senator Kay Hagen (D-NC) told reporters, “We are demanding that change take place… This is a crime and we’re going to address it as a crime, and the perpetrators are going to be kicked out of the military.” Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters “I think 26,000 sexual assaults is going too far,” Mikulski said. “And now there is even a criminal investigation of the football team at the Naval Academy, where we are training the next best.”
Anu Bhagwati, former Marine Corps Captain and executive director of Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), said in a statement [PDF], “We are grateful to Chairman Carl Levin and Ranking Member James Inhofe for holding this hearing to discuss critical legislation on the issue of sexual violence in the military. The military is facing a crisis in the ranks and troops are quickly losing faith in the military’s ability to provide adequate protection for victims and prosecute and punish offenders. Much of the new legislation, if passed, would help restore confidence in the military’s ability to maintain good order and discipline in the ranks.”