Hawaii Delegation Backs Reforms Against Military Sexual Assaults

Office of Sen. Mazie Hirono

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A burgeoning scandal over sexual assaults in the military is fueling calls from congressional lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support a bill that gives victims greater confidence that they'll get justice.

At an emotional press conference on Thursday where former service members spoke of being sexually assaulted while in the military, Sen. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard joined a bipartisan group in both chambers in pushing for reform.

The issue was a personal one for Gabbard, who served two tours of duty in the Middle East with the National Guard. Though she was not available for comment Thursday, she told CNN earlier this month that rape culture was prevalent during her first deployment to Iraq, to the point where soldiers were trained on protecting themselves from other soldiers.

“There was a heightened state of awareness because of incidents that were rising in the camp,” she said. “We were trained and briefed as soldiers about things to be aware of — travel in battle buddy teams. Don’t walk out alone even in a camp where theoretically you’d think you be safe.”

The measure, part of a growing push by Congress to do something about what appears to be a growing number of sexual assaults in the military and two recent disturbing incidents, would take decisions on whether to pursue sex abuse allegations out of the military chain of command and instead hand them to an independent military prosecutor. The change would also affect serious cases involving other alleged crimes with a sentence of a year or more in confinement.

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