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VIDEO: Pingree introduces amendment to protect survivors of sexual assault seeking security clearance

Amendment to major defense bill requires Pentagon to tell victims they don't have to report counseling on security questionnaire

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree introduced an amendment today to a major defense bill that would instruct the Pentagon to inform military personnel that they don't have to report counseling for sexual assault whenapplying for or renewing a security clearance.

Pingree said she's heard from military personnel around the country and overseas who say they don't seek counseling after a sexual assault because they knew they would have to disclose it on the national security questionnaire. Pingree pushed for a change in policy that would allow those survivors not to disclose the counseling.

Speaking on the floor in favor of the amendment
"Knowing that question was there and believing that answering 'yes' might jeopardize their chances at a security clearance, survivors of sexual assault often decided not to get the mental health counseling they so desperately need," Pingree said. "The Director of National Intelligence has listened to us on this, and has issued guidance saying survivors of sexual trauma do not have to report counseling related to that assault. But that change won't do the survivors any good unless they know it has taken place."

Pingree has been pushing the Director of National Intelligence to allow sexual assault survivors to answer "no" to Question 21 on the Questionnaire for National Security Positions. Recently the Director announced that the new question will be focused on behavior instead of treatment, but in the interim those victims are allowed to answer "no" to the question. A similar accommodation had previously been made for service members who suffer from combat-related PTSD.

Pingree's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act instructs the Department of Defense to inform all service members of the change.

The Service Women's Action Network (SWAN)endorsed the amendment, saying, "It is imperative that all military personnel understand that they are able to answer NO to the question. Your common-sense amendment would require that all personnel would be informed of the policy as early as possible in their military enlistment and commissioning process and then again as part of annual sexual assault prevention training."

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