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Donnelly Pushes to Prevent Sexual Assault in the Military

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Washington, D.C. — Senator Joe Donnelly, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today pushed top defense officials to improve their efforts to prevent sexual assault in the military.  At a hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, Senator Donnelly told the first panel of witnesses, Service Component Chiefs and Judge Advocate Generals (JAGs), that they have an obligation to current and future service members to solve this problem and to address the psychological needs of survivors of sexual assault in the military.
“I was at the Indy 500 a week before the race, and we inducted a couple hundred men and women into the service.  And I want to be able to know when I look them in the eyes, that I can keep my obligation to tell them that you can serve our country, serve with dignity, have your dignity respected, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Senator Donnelly.
Senator Donnelly is working with his colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee to develop policies to improve the military’s efforts to prevent sexual assault.  The Pentagon released a report last month showing a 35% increase in the estimated number of sexual abuse incidents in 2012 compared with 2010.
Further, sexual assault has been found to increase the risk for death by suicide by as much as 14 times for female victims compared to women who have never been assaulted, even after controlling for psychiatric diagnoses present prior to the assault. According to results of a new study by researchers at the University of Utah, military personnel have experienced increased risk of suicidal thoughts or actions if they were the victims of physical or violent sexual assault as adults.
One of Senator Donnelly’s priorities is preventing military suicides, as we lost more service members to suicide (349) than in combat in Afghanistan last year (295).   Donnelly believes survivors of sexual assault in the military should have a safe and confidential place to go when they need help.  He is dedicated to working with his colleagues to ensure their psychological needs are addressed, that they are screened for risk of suicide, and that they have access to resources such as counseling and suicide prevention.
VIDEO: Senator Donnelly questions top military officials at today’s hearing on sexual assault prevention legislation
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