Opening Statement of Honorable Julia Brownley, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health
Good morning. I would like to thank everyone for attending today’s hearing, focused on examining the care and treatment available to survivors of military sexual trauma . The Subcommittee will also be looking at the coordination of care and services offered to the victims of MST through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.
Many MST victims who have suffered through an ordeal such as sexual assault often times are reluctant to discuss their situation and seek help. Those that finally gather the courage to speak up find that their story is often dismissed or treated indifferently, unjustly becoming the victim again.
As many of you know, the Pentagon reported earlier this year that an estimated 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact occurred in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2011. With only 13.5 percent of incidents reported, it is clear that we must do a better job in both preventing and treating MST. These servicemembers and veterans often continue to experience debilitating physical and mental symptoms from MST, which can follow them throughout their lives.
Focusing on prevention, however, is only part of the solution. It is critical that we do all that we can to make it easier for victims of MST to access needed benefits and services and receive treatment. Compassion and care are a significant part of healing those that have been sexually assaulted.
I applaud the legislative efforts of our colleagues who have introduced legislation, H.R. 1593, the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act and H.R. 671, the Ruth Moore Act. These bills seek to ensure stronger protections are in place so that the safety and well being of our men and women in uniform is assured. We must begin to take these important steps to end sexual assault. As a proud cosponsor of both bills, I believe we are headed in the right direction.
I was saddened to read the testimonies of our first panel. The pain and suffering was evident in the personal stories written. I know that this is hard for all of you and I commend you on your bravery to speak up today. We need to hear, first hand, the experiences of veterans who have found the system unfriendly and intimidating so that we can make it better.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I now yield back.