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Post-9/11 Veterans Demand Congressional Action for Military Sexual Assault Survivors 

WASHINGTON, DC (November 16, 2017)  — Less than one week after Veterans Day, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the leading voice of the Post-9/11 generation of veterans, stood today with U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Kennedy (R-LA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), survivors, veteran advocates, and bipartisan leaders in support of the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). IAVA’s She Who Borne The Battle campaign to recognize and support women troops and veterans continued, as male and female veteran leaders addressed the bill’s importance, noting that not enough is being done to protect survivors of military sexual assault or to prevent these egregious crimes from happening in the first place. The chain of command is too often failing service members, and it’s appalling that this remains a problem.

In IAVA’s recent member survey, which Sen. Gillibrand specifically noted in her remarks, only 19% of IAVA women veteran members and 33% of men said they think DoD is effectively addressing Military Sexual Assault (MSA). Additionally, 35% of IAVA women members and 1% of male members reporting being survivors of MSA. 

IAVA Legislative Director and Navy Veteran, Tom Porter, and IAVA members joined Sens. Gillibrand, John Kennedy (R-LA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), survivors and veteran advocates to present IAVA’s jarring data findings, and to convey IAVA’s support for the bill.

“With our reliance on an all-volunteer force that comes from less than 1% of America, we have to ensure that men and women know that their commanders will have their backs. When my three daughters are making their career choices, I’d like to be able to recommend the military, but that depends on how this problem gets addressed,” said Porter.

“It’s mind-boggling that years of outrage has not prompted more action,” added Allison Jaslow, IAVA Executive Director, Iraq veteran and lead spokesperson for IAVA’s She Who Borne the Battle campaign. “Women in the military just like me are risking their lives for our country, yet Congress persistently tolerates a culture that does not adequately support them. If our nation was doing enough, we wouldn’t see headlines like the Marines United photo scandal in March or the shocking Washington Post report last month that Army sexual assault prevention officers are themselves being convicted of sex crimes. Women in the military deserve better. So do the men who are also impacted by MSA. Further failure by Congress to act at a time when tectonic shifts are occurring in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, reinforces the unacceptable double standard our nation has for women servicemembers on this issue and undermines our national security. We encourage all members of Congress and the President to finally support and pass this urgent reform.” 

IAVA’s 2017 Policy Agenda: IAVA calls on Congress to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act, which will would shift the prosecution of serious crimes, including sexual assault, from the military’s chain of command to independent military prosecutors. Learn more about the bill here.

She Who Borne The Battle: More than 345,000 American women have deployed since 9/11 and over 2.2 million women veterans live in the US total. Women are the fastest-growing segment of the veteran population and that trend will continue as the number of male veterans simultaneously declines over the next decades. However, many women veterans are left without recognition and the proper care to support their needs when they return from their service. She Who Borne the Battle will change this by providing a foundation of public awareness, local support and policy changes solely targeted at recognizing and supporting women veterans. This includes changing the exclusionary VA motto, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and for his orphan,” to a motto that includes “She Who Borne the Battle.” Learn more at www.SheWhoBorneTheBattle.org.

Note to media: Email press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.