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Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 10:36pm
El Paso, Texas (KDBC) — Fort Bliss today responds to reports of the growing number of sexual assaults that have occurred on post. This, just a day after lawmakers in Washington announced plans to strip military commanders of their authority to overturn convictions in rape and assault cases.
Its been a problem across the country for sometime and in the national media spotlight for the last month, according to the Fort Bliss spokesman, Maj. Joe Buccino.
"It is the chief of staff of the army's number one priority," said Buccino.
Tuesday lawmakers questioned America's top U.S. military chiefs about the growing problem. At the hearing, Senators discussed a possible provision: taking the process of reporting unwanted sexual contact away from the chain of command and transferring it to a more neutral person or agency.
At Fort Bliss, 33 sexual assault cases and 13 sexual harassment cases have been reported since Oct. 1, 2013.
"It erodes the trust within any military organization and trust is the underpinning of anything we do as an army, anything we do at Fort Bliss," said Buccino.
Fort Bliss now has a prevention program in place, and they're working to change those numbers.
But sexual assault isn't just a problem in the military. In El Paso, there were 177 reported sexual assault cases between January and May.
"All the hearings in the world can go on and it still means you have a victim who needs to get services," said Deb Benedict, with the Sexual Trauma and Assault Response Services.
Benedict and Buccino agree says soldiers are scared to report the assault or harassment.
"If they report that they will not be supported by the chain of command. They may get in trouble,” said Buccino.
STARS and other advocate agencies work closely with Fort Bliss to help solve the problem.
"If you don't come forward. If you're a victim. You're not able to receive the services you need to insure your physical, mental and emotional health," said Benedict.
Back in D.C.., those military leaders said they're strongly opposed to taking those sexual assault cases away from unit commanders.
If you need to report anything you can call:
Fort Bliss 24 hour sexual assault hotline: (915)245-8991
Sexual Trauma and Assault Response services 24 hour hotline: (915)779-1800