Mikulski Calls on Secretary Gates to Address Reports of Sexual Assault in Military - Southern Maryland Headline News

Mikulski Calls on Secretary Gates to Address Reports of Sexual Assault in Military


"This culture of fear and personal insecurity does not belong in our military and must not be tolerated."

WASHINGTON (June 12, 2007) - Citing recent news reports of an increase in sexual assault cases among military personnel, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for his plan to reduce sexual assault in the military, create an environment of zero tolerance for sexual misconduct, and address the unique stress such an atmosphere places on women in uniform.

"We need to think creatively to develop an atmosphere of leadership, accountability and personal responsibility that does not tolerate sexual harassment or misconduct," said Senator Mikulski. "Nothing will improve until the most senior leadership is forced to take personal ownership for real change. Everyone must be held accountable in a true policy of zero tolerance."

Senator Mikulski has been a member of the United States Naval Academy Board of Visitors for 20 years, where she has consistently worked with military leadership to establish a policy of "zero tolerance" for sexual misconduct.

Senator Mikulski's letter to Secretary Gates is below:

Dear Secretary Gates:

I am appalled by recent news articles reporting an increase in rape and sexual assault cases among military personnel.

According to news reports, over the past 4 years, more than 500 women serving in Iraq or Afghanistan were raped or sexually assaulted. Many more cases have gone unreported because of shame, fear of retribution and alienation, or a sense of indifference among military leadership. In a place where our troops rely on each other everyday for their safety, I am troubled that women serving on the battlefield must also be on guard against sexual assault from their fellow soldiers. This culture of fear and personal insecurity does not belong in our military and must not be tolerated.

As a member of the United States Naval Academy Board of Visitors, I have worked with military leadership at the Academy to establish a policy of "zero tolerance" for sexual misconduct in our Armed Forces. We need to think creatively to develop an atmosphere of leadership, accountability and personal responsibility that does not tolerate sexual harassment or misconduct. Nothing will improve until the most senior leadership is forced to take personal ownership for real change. Everyone must be held accountable in a true policy of zero tolerance.

One of the silent side effects of sexual misconduct is the additional stress it places on our female service members, who must be on guard even when they are not on duty. The mental health impact is especially dire for those who have been victimized by a fellow soldier, and we must do more to get them the care they need. As we face a growing demand to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we must be attentive to the specific needs of those who suffer from PTSD because of sexual assaults.

So far in your tenure as Secretary of Defense, you have shown a strong commitment to caring for our men and women in uniform. I ask that you provide me with your plan for reducing sexual assault in our military and creating an environment of zero tolerance for sexual misconduct of any kind. In addition, I would like know what steps the Department is taking to address the unique stress and mental health needs of our women in uniform, especially those who have suffered sexual assault.

I appreciate your personal attention to this important matter and look forward to hearing from you soon.


Source: Sen. Mikulski's Office

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