05/31/2013 05:56 pm ET Updated May 31, 2013

Tulsi Gabbard On Military Sexual Assault: 'There Are Predators Who Wear The Uniform'


Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) spoke out on Friday against the crisis of sexual assaults in the military, Hawaii News Now reported.

Gabbard, who is a captain and active member in Hawaii's National Guard, warned that "there are predators who wear the uniform and who stand within our ranks."

"When you have people who are afraid to go to work, you have people who are afraid to put that uniform on or who are looking over their shoulder -– not for the enemy, not for the bad guy, but for their battle buddy because that violation of trust has occurred -– it is an undermining of our ability to act cohesively and strongly as a unit," Gabbard told Hawaii News Now in an exclusive interview.

"There are bad people in our military," Gabbard continued. "And I will do everything within my power to make sure that they are not allowed to wear the uniform that I'm so proud to wear."

This isn't the first time Gabbard has taken a stand against military sexual assault. Earlier this month, Gabbard, along with Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), voiced her disapproval of the military's handling of the pervasive problem of sexual assaults.

“We have to make sure we are investigating those who are retaliating and abusing their positions of command or power,” Gabbard said on CNN's "State Of The Union."

Retaliation is a major deterrent preventing military rape victims from coming forward about attacks. A Pentagon report released earlier this month revealed that 62 percent of sexual assault victims in the military who reported being attacked say they experienced some form of retaliation afterward, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reported further on that disturbing trend on Friday.

The extent of the assaults came to light when the Pentagon released a report earlier this month estimating that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year and that thousands of victims are unwilling to come forward despite new oversight and assistance programs. That figure is an increase over the 19,000 estimated assaults in 2011.

Only 3,374 of these crimes were reported, resulting in just 238 convictions.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on legislation to combat military sexual assault.



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