Local Lawmakers Search For Best Way To Combat Sexual Harassment In Military | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Local Lawmakers Search For Best Way To Combat Sexual Harassment In Military

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Lawmakers in the region are united in the desire to combat sexual harassment in the military, but they have yet to find a legislative fix to the problem.

The U.S. military has rapidly evolved in recent years—gays and lesbians can now serve openly, and women can now officially do what they've been doing unofficially for years: join men in forward combat theaters. But recent reports of a culture of sexual harassment are highlighting what may be a byproduct of that quick transition, according to northern Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly.

"I think we're still in a transition in our armed forces in a sense  with respect to gender integration and gender hierarchy within that integration. And obviously that's still a work in progress," he says.

Lawmakers were outraged this week to learn of the arrest of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski in Arlington County, Virginia for groping a woman. Before his arrest he was in charge of Air Force sexual harassment prevention programs. While Virginia Republican Rob Wittman wants to do all he can to end sexual harassment in the armed forces, he says this is an issue the military needs to address internally.

"I think they need to redouble their efforts to understand what the scope of the issue is and to make sure that they re out there addressing it," he says.

Some lawmakers want to provide more lawyers to sexual assault victims while others want to remove sexual cases from the ordinary chain of command. But Northern Virginia Democrat Jim Moran says he's confident in the military s top brass.

We know what this is and we're going to change it. President Obama is absolutely committed, as is Secretary Hagel. And every four-star I've talked to, they get almost emotional about this. They want none of this," he says.

The debate is only heating up after the Pentagon reported there were more than 70 sexual assaults a day last year.

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