Bill Proposed to Stop Sexual Harassment in VA Hospitals

Bill Proposed to Stop Sexual Harassment in VA Hospitals

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Bill Proposed to Stop Sexual Harassment in VA Hospitals

 

In the nation's Veteran's Administration hospitals, a dark secret is lurking.  VA statistics show that hundreds of sexual assaults, including rapes, forcible medical examinations, and inappropriate touching, occur in hospitals for veterans each year. A bill recently proposed in the House of Representatives, H.R. 2074, would use several strategies to ensure that service members are protected from sexual assaults and have ways to report any assaults that do occur.

According to studies conducted by SWAN, the nation's largest organization advocating for female members of the U.S. armed services and female veterans, women have recently been using VA health care rather than private health care in record numbers since returning home from missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  However, this uptick in VA use may not be good for the women involved: studies have shown that sexual assault survivors receiving services from the VA are significantly less satisfied than those who receive healthcare from private providers.

SWAN runs a helpline for female armed services members who have been subjected to sexual assault, discrimination, or harassment.  According to testimony from SWAN's policy director, women have reported extreme incidents of sexual assault and harassment.  In one case, a veteran's psychiatrist raped her but the veteran was told that her word alone could never lead to the psychiatrist being disciplined in any way.

In another VA hospital, a technician has been reported repeatedly for sexually inappropriate conduct.  A police officer at the facility reports that the technician has been reported to his employer repeatedly but continues to work in his technician capacity, in close proximity to female patients even after being accused of rape at least twice.

If H.R. 2074 becomes law, the VA would be required to implement a comprehensive reporting system for rapes and other types of sexual assault.  The law would also track incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment at VA hospitals so that the VA could develop a better understanding of where problems were occurring and how to stop sexual assault in the future.

Currently, reporting sexual assaults can be confusing and difficult for female veterans.  In many cases, women report that their complaints are not taken seriously.  In some situations, women have even been retaliated against because they made complaints about sexual harassment or assault.  Having a consistent reporting system could lead to complaints being addressed more promptly and with more significant consequences for sex offenders caught assaulting patients or staff at VA hospitals.

Source: House.gov

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