As a combat veteran who served in the Iraq war, Iowa Republican candidate Joni Ernst knows first-hand how difficult it is to fight a war on two fronts.
Yet, that’s exactly what Ernst is doing as she battles a seasoned Democratic rival, Rep. Bruce Braley, for the state’s open Senate seat — while locking horns with her former bosses and some in her own party over the reporting of sexual assaults in the military.
“This will not be an easy challenge,” Ernst said recently at a campaign event. “I understand many in my own party in Washington will oppose this plan, as will many in the military and the Pentagon. However, this should not be a partisan issue, and as a woman in uniform, I know we must act now.”
The candidate wants to take such reporting out of the military chain of command. For Ernst, who served as a company commander in Kuwait during the Iraq War in 2003-2004, the issue is a personal one.
She recently told Time magazine she was sexually harassed during her more than two decades of service.
“I had heard comments, passes, things like that,” she told the magazine. “There were some things where I was able to say stop, and it simply stopped but there are other circumstances both for women and for men where they don’t stop and they may be afraid to report it.”
Ernst, now a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves, says she wants to take her personal experiences and push for a culture change in Washington.
Sexual assault and harassment had been the military’s dirty little secret for a long time, and efforts to stop it have only recently started gaining traction.
Of the estimated 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact in the military in 2012, only 3,000 were reported and of those, just 13 percent went to trial.
SOURCE: Barnini Chakraborty