Gabbard says 'there is still a fear of retaliation' in the military about reporting sexual assault

Gabbard says 'there is still a fear of retaliation' in the military about reporting sexual assault
© Greg Nash

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardNew poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne Saagar Enjeti: Yang's plan to regulate big tech misses the mark MORE (D-Hawaii) said Sunday that she believes Americans don't know "how rampant sexual assault in the military is" because there is still a "fear of retaliation."

“I believe that we still today don’t know how rampant sexual assault in the military is, because there is still a fear of retaliation, there is a stigma and people who don’t want to be known as 'that one,' ” Gabbard, a 2020 presidential candidate, said at a CNN town hall in Austin, Texas.

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Gabbard, who is an Army veteran, lamented the “lack of recognition of the serious change that needs to take place for there to be a true path for justice, for victims of sexual assault in the military.”

The Hawaii lawmaker, who served in Iraq and Kuwait, also expressed support for the Military Justice Improvement Act, which aims to address sexual assault's pervasiveness in the military.

“This legislation is so important because it provides that path outside of the chain of command where you know that there is no one, whether it’s your team leader, platoon leader, first sergeant or commander, there is no one who will be able to stop your pursuit of justice and accountability if you’re a victim of assault in the military,” Gabbard said, adding that she served with people who said they felt they were unable to tell their stories of sexual assault.

The issue of sexual assault in the military drew renewed attention this week after Arizona Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths MORE (R) revealed Wednesday that she was raped by a superior while serving in the Air Force. 

McSally also called for reforms to how the military handles sexual assault.