Skip to content

Ernst Seeks Answers from DOD, DOJ on Protecting Children in Military Families from Sexual Assault

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Attorney General Jeff Sessions following recent and troubling reports citing nearly 600 cases of juvenile sexual assault involving children of military families attending schools operated by the Department of Defense (DOD).

In a letter to Secretary Mattis, Ernst, a combat veteran, requested information on the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools’ efforts to protect students from sexual violence. Additionally, in a letter to Attorney General Sessions, Ernst asked about the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) role in pursuing these cases to hold offenders accountable.

The Iowa Senator also stated in her letter to Secretary Mattis that she was “troubled by these reports, not only because they involve claims of sexual assault involving juveniles, but also because they undermine the special trust placed in Department-operated schools by the military families who rely on these schools to provide a safe educational environment for their children.”

Senator Ernst asked the DOD to provide answers to her questions concerning how many incidents of sexual assault have been reported, how many allegations were investigated, what services were made available to victims, and what structure is in place to report and respond to incidents of sexual assault at its schools.

In her letter to Attorney General Sessions, Senator Ernst cited a recent report that alleges “when cases are forwarded to federal authorities, they are rarely prosecuted”, continuing that while “many factors contribute to the decision as to how a case should be handled by prosecutors, I am nevertheless concerned that there is insufficient attention given to cases involving children attending schools operated by the Department of Defense.”

Senator Ernst questioned the Attorney General on the DOJ’s procedure for handling these cases and how many cases have been pursued by the department since 2007.

Read the full text of Senator Ernst’s letter to Secretary Mattis here, and her letter to Attorney General Sessions here.