Bill would create sex assault solutions task force for Coast Guard

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Persian Gulf (April 27, 2005) ??? Coast Guardsmen aboard U.S Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy (WPB 1326) wave good-bye to the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 74) after the first underway fuel replenishment (UNREP) between a U.S. Navy cruiser and a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter. Antietam completed fuel replenishment with the Monomoy in about two hours and saved the 110-foot patrol boat a four-hour trip to the nearest refueling station. Antietam and Monomoy are conducting maritime security operations (MSO) in the Persian Gulf as part of Commander, Task Force Five Eight CTF-58). U.S. Navy photo by Journalist Seaman Joseph Ebalo (RELEASED)

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Two female senators, both of whom are also veterans, are reaching across the aisle to try to create a new task force that would combat sexual assault within the U.S. Coast Guard.

Reports of sexual assault within the Coast Guard have risen in recent years, reflecting figures from the military as a whole. In 2018, nearly half of the female cadets at the Coast Guard Academy reported being sexually harassed, and a new investigation found mismanagement of those cases by leadership.

The Pentagon has promised sweeping reforms aimed at reducing the numbers, but those reforms wouldn’t apply to the Coast Guard, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Department of Defense.

“They should have the same protections against sexual assault as everyone else in uniform,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said. “It’s my duty to make sure that they are protected as they serve our nation.”

So last month, she and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced the bill to organize the task force, which would recommend policies to improve oversight, ensure sexual assault survivors are heard and hold perpetrators accountable both at the academy and in the fleet.

The senators say that for too long, brass has turned a blind eye to the problem and that it’s time to develop a new culture free of sexual harassment.

“We want to make sure you are in a work environment that is safe and respectful,” Ernst said. “Stay strong, report it. We will help you find those solutions.”

The bill has been sent to committee. No hearings had been scheduled as of Friday.

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