Following the Pentagon’s March 17 release of its latest sexual assault statistics, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) delivered a speech on the floor of the US House of Representatives decrying rape in the military. Congresswoman Speier stated, “Read my lips, the military must end rape in this country. And those who commit such crimes must be brought to justice, the fact that women are being raped and our government is turning a blind eye is disturbing enough….We have a military culture that condones and sometimes rewards this kind of abusive and violent behavior against female soldiers, who are now more likely to be raped by fellow soldiers than killed by enemy fire.” Congresswoman Speier also vowed, “beginning today I’m going to tell these women’s stories on the House floor, and I’m going to keep telling them and keep telling them until something is done about it.”
The Pentagon’s “Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military” indicated that approximately 3,000 women experienced sexual assaulted in fiscal year 2008, which is a 9 percent increase from the previous year. For women in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rate of sexual assaults increased by 25 percent.
In February, attorney Susan Burke filed a lawsuit in the Eastern Virginia federal court against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for failing to prevent, investigate, and prosecute the sexual assault and rape of the 17 plaintiffs. The plaintiffs in the case are veteran and active-duty service members from the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Reserves who were sexually assaulted, raped, or harassed by active duty military members.
According to a 2003 study by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, at least one-third of all women veterans have experienced rape or sexual assault during their service, and thirty percent of military women experience domestic violence. Moreover, rape occurs in the military nearly twice as often as in the civilian world. Members of the US House of Representatives, including Susan Davis (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and former Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA) have pressed the military to address sexualized violence, working on task forces and proposing legislation.