DES MOINES, IA – This evening, mother, soldier, and independent leader, Joni Ernst, will attend the Iowa Federation of Republican Women’s Diamond Anniversary dinner. There she will speak briefly about her 20 years of experience as a woman in the military and how to address one of its most pressing problems, sexual assault.
In anticipation of that speech, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate and Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, Joni Ernst, released the following statement:
“I have spent more than 20 years proudly wearing this nation’s uniform. During that time, I have seen both the greatness of our military and its failures. This experience has given me a unique personal perspective on the greatest challenges our military is facing, as well as the best opportunities for solutions.
One of the most significant of those challenges is sexual assault in the military. Sexual violence of any kind is a hideous crime that must be rooted out and punished wherever it is found.
Victims of sexual violence often feel trapped, isolated and alone. When these victims are women in the male-dominated military, that isolation can be even worse. That is why I treat all allegations of sexual violence with the highest level of seriousness and sensitivity, and my heart goes out to every victim. Every claim should be fully investigated. Anyone found guilty should be severely punished.
But words alone are not enough. It is time for action.
If the recent changes in law, passed last year, do not make significant progress in the next few months in addressing this pressing problem, when I am sworn into the United States Senate as its first female combat veteran, I will work with Senator Gillibrand and other Senate leaders in seeking bi-partisan support for new legislation. This legislation must ensure that sexual crimes in the military are both independently investigated and prosecuted.
This will not be an easy challenge. I understand many in my own party in Washington will oppose this plan, as will many in the military and Pentagon. However, this should not be a partisan issue, and as a woman in uniform, I know that we must act now.”
Ernst’s guiding principles:
- All sexual assault crimes in our military would be independently investigated and the decision whether to prosecute would be made by an independent, experienced prosecutor who is not in the chain of command for the accused or accuser.
- If a decision is made by the independent prosecutor to proceed to trial, the Service Secretary’s office assigns an independent court martial administrator to convene the court martial.
- This approach is focused on the epidemic of sexual assault.
- Army National Guard: 53,605 women (14.97% of the force)
- Army National Guard Officers: 5,654 women (12.73% of the force)
- About 203,000 in 2011, or 14.5% of the active-duty force of nearly 1.4 million.
- Of the 5,061 reports of sexual assault in FY’2013, only 484 went to trial and 376 resulted in convictions.
- Total number of 5,061 reports for FY’13 is a 50% increase over FY’12.
- In FY’12, there were an estimated 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact (up from 19,000 only two years earlier), only 3,374 cases were reported that year.
Note: The US Senate currently has 18 Senators with military experience. When elected, Ernst will be the first female combat veteran in the U.S. Senate. She has over 20 years of service in the United States Military. She would also be the first woman Iowa has elected to Federal office. Ernst’s position on this issue has also been formed from her volunteering at the Ames’ Assault Care Center Extending Shelter & Support for two years in college. There she was a volunteer advocate and provided support to abused or sexually assaulted women.