DoD Shirks Congressional Oversight of Sexual Assault in the Military

Last Thursday, I gave testimony on sexual assault in the military at a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee oversight hearing. Kaye Whitley, director of the Department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, had been subpoenaed to testify at Thursday's hearing, but apparently Department of Defense officials instructed her to stay away from the hearing.

I am very disturbed by the DoD's resistance to Congressional oversight on sexual assault. The DoD's decision to keep Dr. Whitley from testifying undermines the progress the Pentagon has made in addressing sexual assault by suggesting that there is something to hide.

Right now the DoD allows two options for reporting sexual assault: restricted reporting or unrestricting reporting. Filing a restricted report means the victim can receive healthcare services and counseling, but command is not notified and no investigation is conducted. Unrestricted reporting means that command is told, but the victim must submit broad medical records and any communication they had regarding treatment is open to the scrutiny of the chain of command. Quite simply, the current structure makes women who have suffered sexual assault choose between confidentiality and justice.

It is unconscionable that women who serve their country in the military should have to make that decision. For three Congresses, I have introduced the Military Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Act. This legislation will ensure greater protections for service members and their families if they become victims of sexual assault or domestic violence.

While more women have sought care as a result of restricted reporting, it is doing no more than force women to choose between confidentiality and justice. It is shameful that brave women in uniform have to choose to either make their sexual assault common knowledge, or let their rapist go free.