WILSON OPENING STATEMENT FOR HEARING ON SEXUAL ASSAULT IN THE MILITARY
Contact: Josh Holly; 202.226.3988
Wilson Opening Statement for Hearing on Sexual Assault in the Military
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, today released the following prepared remarks for the subcommittee’s hearing on the support structure and advocacy available to victims of sexual assault in the military:
“Thank you Ms. Davis. Today’s hearing continues the work this subcommittee started several years ago to address the problem of sexual assault within the military.
“We began our efforts during Chairman McHugh’s tenure in response to increased reports of sexual assault at our military academies. In 2004 we required the Department of Defense to establish a task force to examine sexual harassment and violence at the United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy. We also asked for an assessment of the effectiveness of the corrective actions taken to address sexual harassment at the United States Air Force Academy.
“We followed these initial steps by expanding the mission of the Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies to include all of the Armed Forces. We then focused our attention on strategies to improve the Pentagon’s response to sexual assault. As a result we required DOD to implement a comprehensive policy for the prevention and response to sexual assaults involving members of the Armed Forces.
“In response to concerns we received from the field over the length of time it took to process forensic evidence, we required DOD to eliminate the backlog in the processing of forensic evidence collection kits and ensure that an adequate supply of rape kits are available for all military installations. We also made sure that military personnel who use forensic evidence collection kits receive training to ensure evidence is collected properly.
“Finally, working with the Congresswoman from California, Ms. Sanchez, we took an unprecedented and bold step to reform the Uniform Code of Military Justice to establish a comprehensive and modern sexual assault law based on other federal laws and regulations that effectively address sexual assault.
“These legislative actions point to this committee’s consistent, thoughtful and aggressive approach to addressing the issue of sexual assault in the military. Throughout this process we have looked to the experts to help us find the right solutions and we have worked with the Department of Defense to put in place policies that address both prevention and support for victims of this devastating crime. This has not been an easy task, but our commitment to protecting the health and welfare of our service members is unwavering.
“To that end, it is my understanding that the purpose of today’s hearing is to focus on the support provided by the military to victims of sexual assault and to assess whether DOD’s programs meet the needs of the victims or not.
“I sincerely appreciate the willingness of Ms. Watterson, who was a victim of sexual assault, to testify today. Although your experience took place prior to DOD’s new, comprehensive policy, I hope you can give us your assessment of whether the current policies and programs would have helped you and where there may still be gaps.
“I continue to hear in media reports and from various individual assertions that the system isn’t working well enough. I look forward to the views of the members of the second panel. How do you measure the program’s success? Where does the system fall short? Have you identified areas that need improvement? How can we help?
“I hope that our discussions today will be informative and productive. My purpose today is to continue the dialog towards improving the support, services and care available for military victims of sexual assault. With that, I would like to welcome our witnesses and thank them for participating in the hearing today. I look forward to your testimony.”