TURNER and Tsongas host briefing on Male Military Sexual Assault to give victims a voice
Today, the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, co-chaired by Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH) and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA), hosted a briefing in order to better inform Congress about male sexual assaults in the military, and to give male victims a chance to be heard.
The latest report from the Department of Defense's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) showed that a large number of men in the military are victims of sexual assault, and that men are less likely to come forward and report these crimes. The claim is supported by a March 2015 GAO report that estimated at most only 13 percent of males reported their assaults. Both reports cite that retaliation against victims continues to be a pervasive problem.
Rep. Turner and Rep. Tsongas released the following joint statement:
“Thank you to the brave men who have experienced the trauma of sexual assault for telling their stories today, and to our colleagues, staff members and experts who attended today. Much more needs to be done to encourage male servicemembers to come forward and report these crimes, and to protect men from retaliation once they do report sexual assault. Today’s discussion underscores the need for a targeted approach to addressing sexual assault against men, but the goals remain the same for all survivors: prevent assaults, encourage reporting, provide effective services for survivors and reform the military justice system that too often fails those who have been sexually assaulted. Military sexual assault is a multifaceted challenge that no one piece of legislation can solve, and discussions such as the one held today provide invaluable information as we in Congress seek to address these crimes. We remain committed to ensuring our colleagues, the public and men and women in uniform are educated on this issue. By holding these briefings we can reach a larger audience and give a voice to the survivors of military sexual assault.”
Speaking at the briefing today were:
- Diana Rangoussis, Senior Policy Advisor, Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention Response Office (SAPRO);
- Dr. Susan J. McCutcheon, Director of Family Services, Women’s Mental Health, and Military Sexual Trauma, Department of Veterans Affairs;
- Dr. Judith L. Johnson, Consulting Clinical Psychologist, The Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic, William & Mary School of Law;
- Brian Lewis, President and Co-Founder of Mr. MST;
- Heath Phillips, Executive Director of Mr. MST;
- Bob Hunter, Vice President of Mr. MST.
Rep. Turner and Rep. Tsongas are co-chairs of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus. They have co-authored several pieces of legislation that directly address male military sexual assault. Legislation they authored, which was signed into law last year as part of the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), requires DOD to create a comprehensive strategy to prevent retaliation and protect those who experience it, and improve training for commanders. It also requires DOD to better train and educate servicemembers about the sexual assault of men; provide the medical and mental health needs specific to male survivors; and develop Department-wide metrics to better understand and address the issue. This year, Rep. Turner and Rep. Tsongas continued their work together and co-authored further provisions, which are included in the FY 2017 NDAA, that prompt the DOD to provide treatment options, including intensive therapy, to male victims of sexual assault.
Brian Lewis, President and Co-Founder of Mr. MST, said: “It’s unfortunate that these events continue to be a necessity and we appreciate the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs taking part in today’s briefing. The reality is, male survivors need to have an equal seat at the table so that we can ensure our needs are met. We will continue with our mission of advocating for male survivors of military sexual trauma. Mr. MST appreciates the continued support of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Congressman Michael Turner, and all members of Congress who stand with us and champion equality, and support, for all survivors.”
SAPRO released the following statement regarding today’s briefing: "The Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus is an important avenue to advance the discussion on sexual assault prevention and response. Like the Caucus, the Department is especially concerned about the impact of this crime on men and commends the Caucus leadership's focus on this critical issue."
Dr. Susan McCutcheon, VA’s National Mental Health Director for Military Sexual Trauma stated: “It is crucial that VA be a leader in addressing issues related to sexual trauma among men, particularly since almost half of the MST survivors seen in VA are men. We know that male survivors of MST can face additional barriers in reaching out for help, but it’s important to make sure they know that VA provides free treatment related to MST. Veterans may be able to receive this care even if they are not eligible for other VA care, and no documentation of the MST experiences is required.”
Elizabeth Tarloski, Visiting Professor of Practice at the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at William and Mary Law School, said: "Although MST has garnered a lot of attention in the media in recent years, the majority of attention has focused on women survivors. The absence of the male voice in this discussion only highlights the work that still needs to be done to provide appropriate individualized healthcare services to male survivors."