Rep. Vella-Wilkinson resolution would create panel to study military sexual trauma, harassment
Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has introduced legislation that seeks to study the incidence of sexual trauma and harassment in the military.
The resolution (2017-H 6218) would create a five-member special legislative study commission whose purpose it would be to study and provide recommendations on potential policy, training, and/or preventative measures involving occurrences of military sexual trauma and harassment in the Rhode Island National Guard.
“The national statistics surrounding military sexual trauma/sexual harassment are staggering,” said Vella-Wilkinson, who serves on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “One in 25 women and one in 100 men identify themselves as victims of MST/SH when seeking medical or psychological services. Under-reporting is rampant for a variety of reasons. The Veterans Administration has also stated that nationally 20 to 22 military veterans commit suicide every day. And while no study has tied those suicides to the incidents of sexual harassment, it is another example of something that can adversely affect the mental health of our service members.”
The legislation is designed as a proactive step to investigate current practices, the redress of grievances and training. The study commission would provide recommendations for improvements in these areas.
“Sexual harassment and sexual abuse were highly evident within the active duty community during my tenure and beyond,” said Wilkinson, who is a retired Naval officer. “The activation of the Guard Force during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not only intensified their mission, but instances of MST/SH have reached dramatic levels. It has been reported that Rhode Island has the second largest troop movement in the nation. We are heavily relied upon in the defense of our country during this time. As I travel through the state, speaking to new-era veterans, the anecdotal evidence is clear: men and women in the Rhode Island Guard Force are becoming victimized here and abroad.”
Of the five-member commission, two would be members of the House of Representatives, one would be the attorney general or a designee, one would be a new-era veteran, and one would be a member of the general public who formerly served as a Military Judge Advocate.
The resolution, which is cosponsored by Representatives Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6 Providence, North Providence), John J. Lombardi (D-Dist. 8, Providence) and Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton), has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.