After Push From Kuster, Veterans Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on Military Sexual Trauma
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a request from Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), the Health Subcommittee of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing on the care and treatment available to survivors of military sexual trauma (MST). In May, Kuster led a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in urging the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee to hold a hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) efforts to meet the current and projected needs of veteran survivors of MST.
“This hearing demonstrated the terrible and painful reality of military sexual assault,” Kuster said. “Unfortunately, like the four courageous veterans who testified today about their traumatizing and horrific experiences, both during and after active duty, many military sexual assault survivors do not have access to quality, coordinated mental health care and their symptoms are often overlooked and ignored by both the DoD and the VA. Both Departments must do a better job in providing treatment, support, and health services from the time an assault occurs to the time a survivor seeks health care services at their local VA facility.”
At the hearing, titled “Safety for Survivors: Care and Treatment for Military Sexual Trauma,” Kuster hosted University of New Hampshire psychology professor Dr. Victoria Banyard, who has spent more than 20 years of her career conducting research on the effects of sexual violence on survivors. Dr. Banyard conducts research on the long-term mental health consequences of interpersonal violence and is the co-director of Prevention Innovations, a UNH collaboration between researchers and practitioners that develops, implements and evaluates cutting-edge programs, policies and practices top help end violence against women. Dr. Banyard attended the hearing at the invitation of Rep. Kuster.
“Decades of research show us clearly what must be done to address sexual violence,” Dr. Banyard wrote in a prepared statement that was entered into the Congressional Record. “What is needed now is the commitment to use this research; to dedicate adequate resources to help and support survivors of sexual violence – to keep them safe, and to help them heal. My own research documents the incredible strengths and resilience of survivors, but their courage and long-term health must be supported by the communities they are part of, particularly military communities and Veteran’s Affairs.”
Kuster has consistently spoken about the need for action to prevent military sexual trauma. Last month, Kuster helped secure passage of bipartisan legislation to enhance whistleblower protections for service members who report instances of sexual assault in the military. Kuster recently toured the new women’s center at the White River Junction VA Medical Center and spoke with staff about the need for improved services for survivors of military sexual trauma. In April, Kuster wrote an op-ed focused on the need for bipartisan action to better prevent and respond to sexual assault in the military.
Kuster is a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the bipartisan Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus.
Rob Friedlander, (202) 225-5206