President Barack Obama has finally broken his public silence about the issue of sexual assault in the military. Yesterday, the President issued a statement praising the efforts of the Pentagon in their effort to combat this issue. Obama stated:
I applaud the initiatives that Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have announced to further combat sexual assault in the military. The men and women of the United States military deserve an environment that is free from the threat of sexual assault, and in which allegations of sexual assault are thoroughly investigated, offenders are held appropriately accountable, and victims are given the care and support they need. Elevating these cases to a higher level of command review is a very important step. I believe that sexual assault has no place in our military. I thank Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey and look forward to seeing continued progress on this important issue.
Former Marine Captain and Service Women’s Action Network executive director Anu Bhagwati stated in response “We applaud the President for addressing the issue of rape and sexual assault in the U.S. military. We particularly commend him for acknowledging that survivors deserve a system of justice they can have confidence in and that holds perpetrators accountable for their crimes.”
SWAN has met with White House staff on three separate occasions in order to brief them about the issues involved in military sexual assault. SWAN reports that “In the most recent meeting, executive director Anu Bhagwati expressed the urgent need for the Commander in Chief to speak about this issue to the hundreds of thousands of survivors and family members affected by this crisis.” Captain Bhagwati stated that “We sincerely hope that this is the beginning of President Obama’s increased engagement on ending sexual violence in the Armed Forces.”