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County of Santa Clara, Veterans’ Collaboratives Stand Against Military Sexual Trauma

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF Sexual trauma in the military is a real problem.  According to the United States Department of Defense, there were 26,000 reported cases of sexual assault in the military in 2012, up from 19,000 reported cases in 2010. Twenty percent of women (1 in 5) and one percent of men (1 in 100) have experienced military sexual trauma.  Half of military women fear reprisals at work if they report a sexual assault crime.
This afternoon, the County of Santa Clara Office of Women’s Policy, in partnership with the Moffett Field Veterans’ Collaborative and the Tri-County Veterans’ Collaborative is meeting at the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors Chambers to advocate for policy changes to eliminate military sexual trauma (MST).  Participants also included representatives of the American Legion; the San Jose Vet Center; California Department of Veterans Affairs (CALVETS), Women’s Division, Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women, and other supporting veterans and advocacy group.
“California has the largest population of women veterans in the United States and we need to advocate for laws that protect their basic human rights,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Dave Cortese.  “Their work environment should provide basic safeguards that protect their dignity and punish those who disregard it.”
Panelists, who are veteran leaders in the north and south bay regions, are sharing their perspective on the policy failure within the Dept. of Defense regarding the handling of military sexual trauma, and they will share constructive things people can do to advocate for change as well as further proposed legislation under review this year.
“Last year there were 26,000 reported cases of sexual assault in the military, up from a staggering 19,000 the year before,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose). “It’s important we listen and learn from victims who want to share their stories if we want to fix a broken military culture that has allowed this to happen. No one who puts on our country’s uniform should be subjected to this alarming and unacceptable epidemic of violence.”
The latest report from the U.S. Department of Defense indicates that 67 percent of women in the military do not want to report military sexual trauma incidents, and 50 percent of them fear reprisals at work if they report a sexual assault crime.  Less than 14 percent of all cases were reported in 2012; only eight percent of the reported cases went to trial and two percent of them resulted in convictions.
“Many veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma suffer in silence with the devastating effects of these despicable acts,” said Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, Director of the County of Santa Clara office of Women’s Policy. “We are committed to continuing to educate the public about this epidemic and to advocate for changes that put an end to these crimes and gives veterans and enlisted personnel access to justice and the support that they deserve.”
While the Department of Defense monitors sexual assault incidents within the military, the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) monitors the impact of more broadly defined military sexual trauma, which includes rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment that occurs during military service.
Military sexual trauma occurs as a result of offensive sexual  remarks, unwelcome sexual advances, activities or contact performed against someone’s will, either through physical force, sex without consent because of intoxication, coercion, or  threats of negative consequences, implied promotion, or promises of favored treatment.
Sexual assault incidents include grabbing or tearing of clothing, molesting, “hazing,” choking, beating, rape or attempted rape, date rape, marital domestic violence among service member couples, other forms of physical assault, entrapment, torture or mutilation, isolating, silencing or possibly threatening to repeat the offense to the victim or to harm one of their loved ones.


Media Contact:  Gwen Mitchell/Marina Hinestrosa, Office of Public Affairs (408) 299-5119; Charlotte Bear, US Army Veteran, Moffett Field Collaborative (408) 341-5438; Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, Director, Office of Women’s Policy (408) 299-5142
Posted: July 2, 2013