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Scathing Review of Sexual Assault at VA Facilities Released

This week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a scathing report detailing how the Department of Veterans Affairs is failing at both preventing and tracking sexual assaults at VA facilities across the country. The report focused on a lack of oversight, inconsistent procedures, and weaknesses in protective measures. The report went on to enumerate numerous problems and made recommendations for how the VA might start to address these serious issues.

The review found that from January of 2007 to July of 2010, nearly 300 sexual assault incidents were reported to VA Police.

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Evidence Mounts For Lifting the Ban Against Women in Combat

Following the Military Leadership Diversity Commission’s recommendation that women should be allowed in combat positions, there has been considerable debate about whether the DoD ought to integrate this recommendation into practice. For the past 9 years women have been “attached” to combat units, effectively skirting the ban on women in combat. Lifting the ban would allow women to be formally assigned to combat roles, thereby giving women more opportunity to advance in rank and be recognized for their contributions in conflicts. Additionally, women would have faster access to medical and mental health benefits related to combat experiences. In their recommendation, the MLDC countered one of the arguments against allowing women in combat:

“To date, there has been little evidence that the integration of women into previously closed units or occupations has had a negative impact on important mission-related performance factors, like unit cohesion”

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Senator Murray Discusses What Congress Can Do for Veterans

Senator Patty Murray, the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, went on CNN’s State of the Union to discuss what Congress needs to do in order to address the needs of veterans. She and Candy Crowley discuss high rates of joblessness and homelessness, stigma, mandatory job training, the lengthy benefits and appeals process, and suicide and other mental health issues. Watch to hear her thoughts and check out SWAN’s legislation page to learn more about our efforts.

Memorial Day 2011

Photo by Global Jet (Flickr)

We wish all of our servicemembers, veterans, and their families a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. Thank you for your many sacrifices.

Ms. Foundation: Voices From the Field

One of SWAN’s funders, the Ms. Foundation, recently released a video profiling one woman veteran’s experience of sexual violence in the military. Thanks to the Ms. Foundation for their support and great work!

Rep. Speier Delivers Second Speech on Sexual Assault in the Military

Keeping her promise to continue speaking out about sexual assault in the military, Representative Speier delivered a second speech on the House floor addressing the problem. Watch her powerful words here.

Rep. Speier Condemns Sexual Assault in the Military

Rep. Jackie Speier takes the lead and unflinchingly confronts the military sexual assault “abomination” on the House floor. Watch her speech here.

National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and this year’s theme is “It’s time … to get involved.” It is no longer enough to be aware that sexual violence is a problem – we must be actively working towards preventing violence, supporting survivors, and holding perpetrators accountable.

This morning President Obama issued a proclamation stating that:

We must ensure our police, prosecutors, and courts treat victims with the seriousness and respect they need and deserve.  We must do more to provide services that help victims recover from the trauma of sexual assault.  And ultimately, we must prevent sexual assault before it happens.

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Women Veterans Report Dissatisfaction With VA

Earlier this week the American Legion released the results of a survey of women veterans’ opinions on VA services. They found that 25% of women have been dissatisfied with their experiences using VA health care, and 40% were dissatisfied with the screening for Military Sexual Trauma. Numerous personal stories have been published detailing what obstacles women veterans encounter when they do try to obtain services, including Jennifer Hunt’s recent post describing the difficultly she had obtaining care during her pregnancy. She sums up her experience as such:

Through my entire pregnancy I encountered every stumbling block female Veterans face when accessing VA: my service in the Armed Forces was poorly understood, there were long wait times for appointments, I received fractured care and was forced to cut through miles of red tape. My successes in using VA for care have come from me spending hours of phone calls on hold, sending countless emails and being my own advocate. Many Veterans may not have the luxury of the time I’ve been able to put in.

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Happy International Women’s Day!

Equals, a coalition of UK-based charities that focus on obtaining equality for women, has released a fantastic video in honor of International Women’s Day. Watch it below and visit the International Women’s Day website to learn more about how to get involved, events worldwide, and the 100-year history of the day.

Voices from the Military Rape Litigation

Powerful video that presents the voices of the plaintiffs in the military rape litigation – quotes are pulled directly from their testimonies. Thanks to Jezebel for sharing.

Video contains strong language.



Video by Matt Toder, Jessica Coen, and Irin Carmon. Song: “O Mary Don’t You Weep, by Paul Reece.

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