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Blumenthal pushes bill to help military survivors of sexual trauma

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal
Office of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal announces bipartisan legislation to help survivors of military sexual trauma in Hartford on July 5, 2022.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has introduced a bipartisan bill to connect survivors of military sexual trauma with a peer support system to help their recovery. The bill would establish a military-wide peer support program.

Blumenthal said peer support specialists through the Department of Veterans Affairs would provide emotional support to survivors as they decide whether to report the abuse, and help them navigate the legal system.

“For most women in the military, and men as well, that initial decision to come forward — to step up, to complain, to sound the alarm — is so critical because the threat of retaliation is real and imminent," Blumenthal said at the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs in Hartford. "And that's where a peer support specialist can play the greatest role.”

One-in-four female service members and one-in-100 men have experienced military sexual trauma, according to Disabled American Veterans, an advocacy group. But Blumenthal said those numbers are low because survivors often decide not to report their abusers.

"The peer specialists can provide support at those moments of crisis when a survivor or victim most fears retaliation, or most needs advice about next steps," Blumenthal said.

He also said veterans who file claims with the VA for military sexual assault don’t currently have mental health support.

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.