DES MOINES | Iowa military officials would be required to report any sexual assault involving soldiers to civilian authorities for criminal prosecution under legislation backed by a state senator and veterans' advocates.
Former Waterloo resident Bob Krause, a former state legislator and retired Army Reserve colonel, told a Statehouse news conference the bill would close a loophole by mandating that leaders of the Iowa National Guard report alleged sexual attacks to law enforcement officials.
“As a law enforcement officer for 24-plus years, I think this is one of the things that should have been done a long time ago,” said Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, a deputy sheriff in Marshall County and a member of the Iowa Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “I hope we get this to the governor’s desk this year.”
Sodders is proposing to amend the Iowa Code of Military Justice to apply to military sexual trauma or other incidents when Iowa troops are under state orders. The proposed legislation would not cover Iowa troops that are mobilized under federal authorization.
Miyoko Hikiji, is an Urbandale veteran who was a sexual trauma victim during her stint with the Iowa Army National Guard. She said between 360,000 and 500,000 service women have been sexually assaulted at some point in their military careers, which is at least one in five women in the military. She said a significant number of women cite sexual trauma when filing a claim with the Veterans Administration, but only about 15 percent of the incidents are reported.
Hikiji said the chain of command in her instance appeared to have a systematic method to ignore her report and to “re-victimize me” in the process.
“What is crushing is that the greatest professional army in the world and one of the most ready and well-trained Guard units in the country made me one of its own -- a sister among brothers, trained and battle-tested,” she said. “Proud of the uniform I wore and, from within the tightest woven threads of trust and loyalty, it unraveled everything it had taught me to believe in.”
Col. Gregory Hapgood Jr., the Iowa National Guard’s public affairs officer, said Guard officials planned to review the proposed changes. He said both state and federal policies are focused on providing appropriate support to the victim and honoring the victim’s wishes.