Washington, DC – Congresswomen Jackie Speier (CA-14) on Friday issued the following statement after her provision to stop military trainers and recruiters from preying on trainees and recruits by criminalizing inappropriate sexual contact was passed by the House of Representatives in the 2017 NDAA Conference Report.

“My bill, which was offered as an amendment to the NDAA, finally addresses a systemic and pervasive problem by acknowledging the power imbalance between military trainer and trainee, an imbalance that makes consent impossible to establish. It does so through an amendment of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that criminalizes all sexual contact between Military Training Instructors (MTIs) and trainees and it makes such conduct subject to court martial,” Rep. Speier said. “We were shocked by the scandal at Lackland Air Force Base, where more than 30 training instructors sexually assaulted more than 60 trainees between 2009 and 2012. Not one of the victims at Lackland felt secure enough to tell Air Force officials of the attacks they endured for fear of reprisal. These episodes came to light only after two MTIs came forward, and spoke with a chaplain, about the assaults.”

“From the day a trainee enters basic training, they learn their instructor’s word is the law of the land. Trainees are ordered to obey every command they are given, even if they make no logical sense. Trainees must ask permission to go to the bathroom. The power imbalance is almost unimaginable. So it should come as no surprise that survivors of sexual assault and harassment have been forced to remain silent about the abuse they’ve endured. It should also be obvious that consent in such an environment is not something that any trainee can give,” Rep. Speier said. “That is why my provision states that consent is not a defense and it focuses on military instructors who engage in sexual acts or sexual contact with a trainee during basic training, in military academies, and during the recruitment process.”

“We in the federal government must provide the same level of protection to our military trainees and recruits that they provide us when they sign up for service to our country, and we must hold those who abuse their power responsible for their reprehensible actions. This provision is critical to the success of fulfilling those basic obligations.”