Speier, Mullin Introduce Bipartisan ‘I Am Vanessa Guillén Act’ to Transform the Military’s Response to Sexual Violence & Missing Servicemembers (September 16, 2020)

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE, SENATORS, AND THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE & HOUSE ARMED SERVICE COMMITTEE TO EXPRESS YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE I AM VANESSA GUILLEN BILL.

Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present)

Washington D.C. Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (December 12, 2017)

HASC Congressional Investigation of Fort Hood: Research Reveals Pattern of Suspicious Deaths and Cover-up (September 11, 2020)

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Speier, Mullin Introduce Bipartisan I Am Vanessa Guillén Act to Transform the Military’s Response to Sexual Violence and Missing Servicemembers

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), along with co-leads Reps. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), John Carter (R-TX), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (D-TX), Troy Balderson (R-OH), Jason Crow (D-CO), and Will Hurd (R-TX), and 94 additional co-sponsors, introduced the I am Vanessa Guillén Act in honor of the late SPC Vanessa Guillén and the many survivors of military sexual violence who have bravely come forward in the wake of her disappearance and brutal murder. The legislation responds to these resounding calls for change by offering provisions that would revolutionize the military’s response to missing servicemembers and reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault by making sexual harassment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice and moving prosecution decisions of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases out of the chain of command. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate today. This morning, following a meeting with the Guillén family, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a commitment to hold a House floor vote on the I am Vanessa Guillén Act. President Trump previously announced his support for the bill during a White House meeting with the Guillén family.

SPC Guillén’s disappearance and brutal murder became the catalyst for long overdue change when her family refused to let her case be neglected by Army leadership at Fort Hood. The Guillén family supports the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, and Chair Speier is also leading a congressional delegation this weekend to Fort Hood to further investigate matters at the base and speak with servicemembers at all levels about their experiences and how best to accelerate the cultural change that is so urgently needed.

Specifically, the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act would:

-Move prosecution decisions on sexual assault and sexual harassment cases outside of the chain of command to an Office of the Chief Prosecutor within each military service;

-Create a standalone military offense for sexual harassment;

-Establish trained sexual harassment investigators who are outside of the chain of command of the complainant and the accused;

-Create a confidential reporting process for sexual harassment that is integrated with DoD’s Catch a Serial Offender database;

-Require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the military’s procedures for finding missing servicemembers and compare with procedures used by civilian law enforcement and best practices;

-Require both DoD and GAO to conduct separate evaluations of the military services’ Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) programs; and

-Establish a process by which servicemembers can make claims for negligence and seek compensatory damages against DoD in the case of sexual assault or sexual harassment.

“Military leadership has repeatedly failed to reduce sexual harassment, sexual assault, and violent crime at Fort Hood, one of the worst sites for attacks according to Army officials, and throughout the armed forces,” Chair Speier said. “The endless cycle of harassment, assault, and retaliation for those who speak out reveals the deep roots of a toxic culture we must eradicate so that survivors are taken seriously and treated with respect, and assailants are held accountable. The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act would do this by providing survivors independent investigations for both sexual harassment and sexual assault reports and independent charging decisions for courts-martial. It would also make sexual harassment a criminal offense in the military, helping get to the core of an issue that too often leads to violence and destroys careers, and lives. The Guillén family and legions of former and current servicemembers are demanding bold change. Congress must seize this moment and deliver on that demand for change by passing the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act.”

“The issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue – it’s an American issue,” Congressman Mullin said. “We must strengthen the military’s ability to protect its most important resource, which is the people who willingly sign-up to protect all Americans. The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act will also encourage survivors to come forward to report sexual assaults and sexual harassment and to provide justice. This is about protecting our men and women in uniform and I will keep fighting so no family has to go through what the Guillén family has gone through.”

“From the moment I started working with the Guillén family in May, I made it clear I would not stop until we found Vanessa and got justice in her name,” Congresswoman Garcia said. “The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act of 2020 is a transformative and comprehensive bill that will help save lives and give our soldiers an avenue to report sexual assault and harassment without fear – a lasting legacy in honor of Vanessa. I want the Guillén family to know that Congress, the Houston region, and the entire world stands with you and we won’t stop until we get justice for Vanessa.”

“First and foremost, my heart goes out to the Guillén family, no one should ever have to experience the pain they’ve experienced,” Congressman Carter said. “The men and women that selflessly serve our nation deserve to feel safe to report misconduct and feel confident that their issues will be fairly handled. There is absolutely no place for sexual misconduct in the United States military and we must take these steps to ensure that accountability is realized.”

“The unspeakable tragedy of Specialist Vanessa Guillén’s murder has shed new light and revealed to the American public the epidemic of unchecked sexual harassment and assault that too many service members have suffered,” Congresswoman Escobar said. “Specialist Guillén – and all servicemembers – deserve respect and justice, and it’s our obligation to protect those who bravely put their lives on the line for our country. We can’t continue the same approaches that have failed victims. Congress must respond to this moment of reckoning with new solutions to tackle this epidemic and pass the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act.”

“The tragedy that befell PFC Vanessa Guillén was horrific and reflects a growing problem in our Armed Forces. Our military members should never fear harassment or violence while defending our nation,” Congressman Olson said. “As a Navy veteran, I’m proud to support the I am Vanessa Guillen Act, which is an important step towards getting justice for PFC Guillén and other service members like her. It ensures there is a stand-alone military offense for sexual harassment and requires the GAO to review how our military processes missing service members in cases of suspected foul play compared to civilian law enforcement. By working together and demanding accountability, we can prevent the next tragedy. Our military must maintain higher standards and we will not be silent on this issue.”

“Year after year, we see an increase in reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our military and the same statements from military leadership about how unacceptable they are. It’s far past time we take bold action to bring accountability to the system and give survivors support,” Congressman Cisneros said. “In the memory of Specialist Vanessa Guillén, Republicans and Democrats are coming together to make legislative fixes to protect our men and women in uniform. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the bipartisan I am Vanessa Guillén Act to provide the necessary support and resources for survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our military. Our servicemembers and military families deserve to have the peace of mind that they’ll be heard and treated with dignity and respect.”

“Ohio is home to thousands of active duty servicemembers who risk their lives for our nation, and in return, it’s our country’s obligation to ensure their safety,” Congressman Balderson said. “In honor of Vanessa Guillén, this legislation will take important steps to ensure survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our military can tell their stories without retribution and seek the justice they deserve.”

“As a soldier, I remember going to basic training to learn everything from marksmanship to the chain of command. The military is supposed to train new recruits on the essential tasks of the job, but we still don’t do nearly enough to address sexual assault in the ranks. We need to make sure we are creating a system and culture of accountability in the military to protect our women and men in uniform. For too long, sexual assault and violence has gone unaddressed,” Congressman Crow said. “The military failed Vanessa Guillén but I refuse to let Congress fail her or her family. It is Congress that decides what kind of military we have and now it is Congress’ responsibility to step up and pass the I AM Vanessa Guillén to protect our women and men in uniform.”

“We must work to ensure what happened to Vanessa Guillén never happens again,” Congressman Hurd said.“The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act of 2020 will protect soldiers like Vanessa by ensuring independent investigations occur in assault and harassment cases. This will better safeguard our soldiers from retaliation and help prevent these atrocious acts from ever happening in the first place.”

“Vanessa Guillén’s story makes painfully clear the need for a better response to sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military,” Senator Hirono said. The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act knocks down barriers to reporting sexual harassment and sexual assault and directly addresses the culture that protects the perpetrators of these crimes. It’s time to make a system that respects and protects survivors.”

The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act will fundamentally reform reporting and investigation of sexual harassment in the military and transform prosecution of sexual harassment and assault by empowering an independent prosecutor, within each military service, to bring charges. The bill will also allow servicemembers who were sexually harassed or sexually assaulted to pursue monetary claims against DoD and will also require a comprehensive GAO review of the military’s sexual harassment and assault prevention and response programs, as well as the military’s procedures for responding to missing servicemembers.

A fact sheet and the text of the bill are attached to this press release.

Introduction of I Am Vanessa Guillen Act:

This is a hearing by the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, looking into sexual harassment allegations and how they’re responded to. It’s also looking into Fort Hood’s sexual assault and response program. This hearing is taking place a day before Vanessa Guillen’s family meets with President Trump and legislation is introduced. -KHOU 11 (July 29, 2020)
Rep. Speier, family of murdered soldier Vanessa Guillen on legislation in her honor -PBS News Hour (September 16, 2020)
Lawmakers introduce the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act -HD Vision (September 17, 2020)

Related Files:
Fact Sheet – I am Vanessa Guillen Act Press Fact Sheet.pdf 
2020-09-15 I Am Vanessa Guillen Bill Text.pdf

In the News:

“The IamVanessaGuillen Bill is a BiPartisan Bill. It is NOT a political issue, it’s a human rights issue,” Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam wrote. -KCEN News (September 16, 2020)
Speaker Pelosi to reportedly bring ‘I am Vanessa Guillen’ Act to U.S. House floor for vote -25 News KXXV (September 16, 2020)
Vanessa Guillén’s family members speak during a news conference about the “I Am Vanessa Guillén Act,” in honor of the late U.S. Army Specialist and survivors of military sexual violence. -KXAN (September 16, 2020)
The ‘I am Vanessa Guillen’ bill was presented to Congress Wednesday, but what does it mean for the future of military service members facing sexual harassment. -KHOU 11 (September 16, 2020)

Related Links:
Hearing: “The Military’s #MeToo Moment”
Rep. Speier, family of murdered soldier Vanessa Guillen on legislation in her honor
Lawmakers introduce the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act
Watch Live | #IAmVanessaGuillen Bill introduced in D.C.
Bill honoring Vanessa Guillen introduced in Washington D.C. Wednesday
Speaker Pelosi to reportedly bring ‘I am Vanessa Guillen’ Act to U.S. House floor for vote
Vanessa Guillén’s family members speak about the “I Am Vanessa Guillén Act”
What is the ‘I am Vanessa Guillen’ bill?

S. 1789: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2019 Reintroduced by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York (June 13, 2019)

Bipartisan Support MJIA 2.jpg

Military Justice Improvement Act #PassMJIA

Sens. Cruz, Gillibrand Reintroduce Military Justice Improvement Act (June 13, 2019)

“U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and I today led a bipartisan group of senators to reintroduce the Military Justice Improvement Act, which would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes by moving the decision over whether to prosecute them to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors.” –Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

The Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) of 2019 is sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and cosponsored by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

Editor’s Note: The below U.S. Senate list was compiled from the S. 967: MJIA of 2013 Senate Voting Record. The last time the Senate voted on the MJIA was March 6, 2014. Senator Gillibrand has reintroduced the MJIA every year since. Since 2014, the make-up of the Senate has changed. The still seated Senators who voted Yea and Nay in 2014 are listed as Yes and No in this list. The new senators who cosponsored the MJIA in 2019 have been added to the Yes list; the new Senators who stand with military brass (McSally & Ernst) have been added to the No list; and the rest of new Senators have been listed as unknown (Unk) because we don’t know how they will vote on this bill. Please contact your two Senators, these Senators, and both the SASC Members & HASC Members. Click on the Senator’s name and submit your support for the MJIA via the web or click on the Yes, Unk, or No to send them a message via Twitter. We provided an example tweet you can feel free to copy and paste or you can submit your own personalized message.

Example Tweet:

.@Sen_JoeManchin

Reasons we need your support:
1. Kamisha Block @USArmy: wp.me/p3XTUi-yc
2. Paige Briles #Army: wp.me/p3XTUi-5kn
3. Brandon Caserta @USNavy: wp.me/p3XTUi-8zg
4. @forthood Stateside Deaths: wp.me/p3XTUi-5oF

#PassMJIA @SASCDems

UNITED STATES SENATORS (2019)

C = Cosponsor of Military Justice Improvement Act
S = Senate Armed Service Committee (SASC) Member

State District Name Party Vote
NH Sr, C, S Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Democratic Yes
VT Jr, C Sen. Bernard Sanders Independent Yes
MN Sr, C Sen. Amy Klobuchar Democratic Yes
TX Jr, C Sen. Ted Cruz Republican Yes
NM Jr, C, S Sen. Martin Heinrich Democratic Yes
MA Sr, C, S Sen. Elizabeth Warren Democratic Yes
HI Sr Sen. Brian Schatz Democratic Yes
NY Jr, C, S Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Democratic Yes
CA Sr, C Sen. Dianne Feinstein Democratic Yes
PA Sr, C Sen. Bob Casey Democratic Yes
CT Jr Sen. Chris Murphy Democratic Yes
HI Jr, C, S Sen. Mazie Hirono Democratic Yes
KY Sr Sen. Mitch McConnell Republican Yes
VT Sr, C Sen. Patrick Leahy Democratic Yes
DE Jr, C Sen. Chris Coons Democratic Yes
CO Sr, C Sen. Michael Bennet Democratic Yes
WA Sr Sen. Patty Murray Democratic Yes
IA Sr, C Sen. Charles Grassley Republican Yes
NJ Sr, C Sen. Bob Menendez Democratic Yes
OR Jr, C Sen. Jeffery Merkley Democratic Yes
ME Sr Sen. Susan Collins Republican Yes
IL Sr, C Sen. Richard Durbin Democratic Yes
WY Sr Sen. Michael Enzi Republican Yes
WA Jr Sen. Maria Cantwell Democratic Yes
MI Sr Sen. Debbie Stabenow Democratic Yes
NY Sr Sen. Charles Schumer Democratic Yes
OR Sr, C Sen. Ron Wyden Democratic Yes
OH Sr, C Sen. Sherrod Brown Democratic Yes
NJ Jr, C Sen. Cory Booker Democratic Yes
NM Sr, C Sen. Tom Udall Democratic Yes
KS Jr Sen. Jerry Moran Republican Yes
MD Sr Sen. Ben Cardin Democratic Yes
KY Jr, C Sen. Rand Paul Republican Yes
MA Jr, C Sen. Edward Markey Democratic Yes
AK Sr, C Sen. Lisa Murkowski Republican Yes
CT Sr, C, S Sen. Richard Blumenthal Democratic Yes
WI Jr, C Sen. Tammy Baldwin Democratic Yes
MN Jr, C Sen. Tina Smith Democratic Yes
NH Jr, C Sen. Maggie Hassan Democratic Yes
CA Jr, C Sen. Kamala Harris Democratic Yes
IL Jr, C, S Sen. Tammy Duckworth Democratic Yes
MD Jr Sen. Chris Van Hollen Democratic Unk
AK Jr, S Sen. Dan Sullivan Republican Unk
IN Jr Sen. Mike Braun Republican Unk
IN Jr Sen. Todd Young Republican Unk
NV Jr Sen. Jacky Rosen Democratic Unk
NV Jr Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto Democratic Unk
LA Jr Sen. John Kennedy Republican Unk
LA Jr Sen. Bill Cassidy Republican Unk
ND Jr, S Sen. Kevin Cramer Republican Unk
WV Jr Sen. Shelley Moore Capito Republican Unk
CO Jr Sen. Cory Gardner Republican Unk
AR Sr, S Sen. Tom Cotton Republican Unk
NE Jr Sen. Ben Sasse Republican Unk
SD Jr, S Sen. Mike Rounds Republican Unk
MT Jr Sen. Steve Daines Republican Unk
NC Jr, S Sen. Thom Tillis Republican Unk
TN Jr, S Sen. Marsha Blackburn Republican Unk
AZ Jr Sen. Kyrsten Sinema Democratic Unk
UT Jr Sen. Mitt Romney Republican Unk
GA Jr, S Sen. David Perdue Republican Unk
FL Jr, S Sen. Rick Scott Republican Unk
MO Jr, S Sen. Josh Hawley Republican Unk
MS Jr Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith Republican Unk
MI Jr, S Sen. Gary Peters Democratic Unk
OK Jr Sen. James Lankford Republican Unk
AL Jr, S Sen. Doug Jones Democratic Unk
AZ Jr, S Sen. Martha McSally Republican No
IA Jr, S Sen. Joni Ernst Republican No
MT Sr Sen. Jon Tester Democratic No
ID Jr Sen. James Risch Republican No
FL Sr Sen. Marco Rubio Republican No
ND Sr Sen. John Hoeven Republican No
RI Jr Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse Democratic No
WI Sr Sen. Ron Johnson Republican No
VA Sr Sen. Mark Warner Democratic No
SC Jr Sen. Timothy Scott Republican No
VA Jr, S Sen. Tim Kaine Democratic No
DE Sr Sen. Tom Carper Democratic No
NE Sr, S Sen. Deb Fischer Republican No
MS Sr, S Sen. Roger Wicker Republican No
ID Sr Sen. Mike Crapo Republican No
AL Sr Sen. Richard Shelby Republican No
ME Jr, S Sen. Angus King Independent No
RI Sr, S Sen. Jack Reed Democratic No
MO Sr Sen. Roy Blunt Republican No
TN Sr Sen. Lamar Alexander Republican No
SD Sr Sen. John Thune Republican No
UT Sr Sen. Mike Lee Republican No
PA Jr Sen. Patrick Toomey Republican No
OH Jr Sen. Rob Portman Republican No
TX Sr Sen. John Cornyn Republican No
NC Sr Sen. Richard Burr Republican No
SC Sr Sen. Lindsey Graham Republican No
OK Sr, S Sen. Jim Inhofe Republican No
KS Sr Sen. Pat Roberts Republican No
WY Jr Sen. John Barrasso Republican No
WV Sr, S Sen. Joe Manchin Democratic No
GA Sr Sen. Johnny Isakson Republican No
AR Sr Sen. John Boozman Republican No

Related Links:
S. 967: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013 – U.S. Senate Voting Record (March 6, 2014)
Pass the Military Justice Improvement Act @SenGillibrand
S. 1789: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2019
S. 1789: Military Justice Improvement Act of 2019 [Full Text]
Military Justice Improvement Act of 2019 Would Remove Decisions on Sexual Assault from the Chain of Command
Sen. Martha McSally’s stunning rape revelation shocks Capitol Hill, prompts calls for military justice reform
Presidential candidate, Army veteran Tulsi Gabbard says military sexual assault is ‘rampant,’ at SXSW town hall
Bringing MST home, to Congress
Senator Renews Push to Distance Commanders from Military Prosecutions
Bills Pending US Congress Senate Armed Services Committee
Shanahan calls for reforms as military sexual assaults rise by 38%; highest for young women
2020 Democrats say they have plans to address military sexual assault crisis
Gillibrand re-introduces military justice bill
Sens. Cruz, Gillibrand Reintroduce Military Justice Improvement Act
Udall, Heinrich Reintroduce Military Justice Improvement Act To Address Crisis Of Military Sexual Assault
Leahy Joins Gillibrand And Others To Reintroduce Military Justice Improvement Act
Hirono Wants To Change How The Military Prosecutes Sexual Assault
Senator Martha McSally’s Responsibility to Survivors of Military Sexual Assault
McSally defends keeping military commanders involved in sexual assault cases
Gillibrand: “Status Quo” Not Working With Military Sexual Assaults
Senate Armed Services Committee Members & House Armed Services Committee Members (June 21, 2019)

NBC Washington: 62 Percent of Military Sex Assault Reports Result in Retaliation (May 18, 2015)

Punishing the Victim Retaliation NBC Washington.jpg

“One of the women interviewed was Lt. Col. Teresa James, the highest ranking officer to come forward with a rape claim in the National Guard, according to a recent report by the Guard. The News4 I-Team first brought you her story when she said she believes her 34-year military career with the West Virginia National Guard was destroyed after she reported her rape. Lt. Col. James attended the news conference and told the I-Team, ‘There’s nothing else they can do to hurt me. They did everything they could possibly do. It’s effecting change. That’s why I’m out today. It’s effecting change, and if I have to speak it, shout it from the rooftops, that’s what I’m going to do.’ Read more from NBC Washington here.

Related Links:
Serving in Silence: Sex Assault Retaliation Complaints Investigated
62 Percent of Military Sex Assault Reports Result in Retaliation
Troops who report sexual assault face retaliation
Highlights of Army National Guard Lt. Col. Teresa James’ Military Sexual Assault and DoD IG Substantiated Retaliation Case
DoD Retaliation Prevention and Response Strategy: Regarding Sexual Assault and Harassment Reports
DoD Retaliation Prevention and Response Strategy Implementation Plan
Military Sex Assault Reports Edge Up; Retaliation Persists
DoD Releases Annual Report on Sexual Assault in Military
Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military
Military Sexual Assault Reports Are Up for the Seventh Year in a Row
Pentagon: Claims of Retaliation for Sexual Offense Complaints on Rise
Reports of Military Sexual Assault, Retaliation Increase
The Biggest Obstacle to the Pentagon’s War on Sexual Assault: The Military Justice System
Military sexual assault reports rise in 2017 but fewer servicemembers faced courts-martial
Sexual assault, harassment spikes at military academies, strategies fail to stem crisis
Reports of sexual assault in the military soar
Pentagon report shows sharp rise in military sexual assaults
Sexual assaults in military rise to more than 20,000, Pentagon survey says
“A cultural rot”: Sex assaults spike at U.S. service academies
Defense Department to make sexual harassment a crime
‘It was rape:’ Wisconsin Army National Guard officer Megan Plunkett says she was retaliated against, disciplined for reporting sexual assaults
Gabbard says ‘there is still a fear of retaliation’ in the military about reporting sexual assault
Senators Hirono, Gillibrand Reintroduce Legislation to Bring Justice to Survivors of Sexual Assault in the Military
Sexual assaults in the military are on the rise. This bill would authorize Congress to intervene
Sexual Assault in the Military | C-SPAN.org