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Following an alarming spike of reports of sexual assault at U.S. military academies, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate, is leading a bipartisan group of senators in calling for answers from the Department of Defense (DOD). An annual report from the DOD detailed a 32 percent increase in sexual assault reports at the academies during the 2018-19 school year as compared to the year before.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, Senator Ernst, along with Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), is seeking a briefing on the report along with a meeting with Pentagon officials to discuss the report’s findings and what actions the Pentagon plans to take.

In their letter, the senators write, “The DoD and Congress have prioritized combating sexual assault in our military formations but we must continue to evaluate and reassess our efforts. It is our shared responsibility to ensure the men and women who will be the next generation of leaders in our nation’s armed forces are being instilled with the necessary values to combat the scourge of sexual assault and are immersed in a safe environment where they do not fear becoming a sexual assault victim themselves.”

Click here for a PDF of the senators’ letter.

Full text of the senators’ letter:

Dear Secretary Esper,

We write today to address the disheartening report  from the Pentagon, obtained by USA Today , revealing a significant increase in incidents of sexual assault at our nation’s military academies. While it seems that the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program is empowering cadets and service members to report and seek restorative care, the continued increase in reported incidents from year to year point to a disturbing trend that now requires us to reexamine our efforts to find solutions.

The Pentagon’s annual report on sexual harassment and violence at the military service academies states that there were 122 sexual assault reports during the 2018-19 school year compared to 92 reports from 2017-18, a 32 percent increase. While this sharp increase may reflect an increased willingness to report, it also shows an alarming trend that is heading in the wrong direction.

We request a briefing on this report to complete our own analysis, as well as a meeting with the appropriate DoD personnel to discuss its overall findings, with a particular focus on the suspected causes and proposed plans of action moving forward.

The DoD and Congress have prioritized combating sexual assault in our military formations but we must continue to evaluate and reassess our efforts. It is our shared responsibility to ensure the men and women who will be the next generation of leaders in our nation’s armed forces are being instilled with the necessary values to combat the scourge of sexual assault and are immersed in a safe environment where they do not fear becoming a sexual assault victim themselves.

We look forward to hearing from you and working with you to ensure we are doing everything we can to stop sexual assault from degrading our readiness, lethality, and combat effectiveness.

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Author: Press Release