I may have missed the Sun story, but in today’s Globe there is a story on the Congresswomans’ effort with the recent passage of legislation aimed at improving the Pentagon’s handling of rape and sexual abuse cases.
Some story highlights: Soon after she arrived in Congress three years ago, Representative Niki Tsongas attended a luncheon in the Capitol honoring wounded soldiers. The Lowell Democrat, chatting with a military nurse who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, heard something that shocked and motivated her.
“She made the astonishing statement to me that she was more fearful of our own soldiers than she was of the enemy,’’ Tsongas recalled in an interview.
Tsongas, a member of the Armed Services Committee, embarked on a mission to protect the rising number of troops who report being sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers — a campaign that paid off with recent passage of legislation aimed at improving the Pentagon’s handling of rape and sexual abuse cases.
The Pentagon says there were 3,230 reported sexual assaults involving military members in fiscal year 2009. That was an 11 percent increase from 2008, according to the statistics.
At the military service academies — West Point and the Air Force and Naval academies — there were 41 reports of sexual assault involving cadets and midshipmen during the 2009-2010 academic year.
Women in the military are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault as their civilian counterparts, studies show, while sexual abuse is the leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder among female soldiers
The measures force the military to adopt a better system for reporting and documenting sexual assaults, mandate that a single official have responsibility for making sure complaints are handled properly, and require the Department of Defense to devise ways of offering legal counsel to all victims, whether or not they want to report an assault.
While the Congresswoman is pleased with what has passed so far she is stilling hoping that more help gets passed for the victims: Tsongas maintains there is still a long way to go. One measure that she has pushed that has not yet been enacted is a requirement to provide legal advice to all alleged victims, including those who wish to remain anonymous. So far she has been unsuccessful in advancing such a law; the legislation passed in December only requires the Pentagon to study the feasibility of doing so.
“Confidentiality and access to a lawyer are still very, very important going forward,’’ she said.
Click on the link above to read the story and if you see the Congresswoman congratulate and Thank her for her efforts.