Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham’s opening statement on military sexual assault, PTSD & suicides

Partial transcript of opening remarks by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), on the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs handling of post traumatic stress disorders and suicides of service members who suffered military sexual assault. The hearing before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel was held on Feb. 26, 2014:

…I think there is almost unanimous support, I would hope, in the Senate for finding ways to provide treatment to people who’ve been victims of sexual assault.

I know it’s got to be one of the most traumatic experiences of what people go through, and I do appreciate you sharing with us what you see as flaws in the current system, the VA, counseling.

And I really look forward to hearing from the second panel. I think there’s been some major monumental changes in the military about how we deal with this problem in terms of reporting, treatment, and just awareness.

The one thing I would say, with all due respect to our witnesses and my fellow colleagues, from my point of view that this is a problem that would never be solved if you tell the commanders this is no longer your problem.

I’ve been in the military for 31 years. I do believe that the role of the commander when it comes to dispensing military justice is essential.

And there is accountability in the reform we’ve made that when sexual assault cases are brought to a commander and they refuse to prosecute after a lawyer says we should go forward, that decision goes all the way up to the Secretary of the service. When the lawyer and the local commander say no to moving forward in an allegation of sexual assault, it goes up to the next level of command, which I think is a very good signal to take this seriously.

But I would just say to both witnesses from a military point of view to tell the commander this is no longer your problem would be an absolute disaster for fixing the problem and I think would erode what the military is all about. It is the commander’s problem, and it is their responsibility and we expect them to do their job…


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