Rep. Steve Knight (CFA-25) has introduced H.R. 5707, the Sexual Trauma Response and Treatment Act. The bill is co-led in the House with Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and companion legislation is being introduced in the Senate by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). Each representative and senator is a member of their respective chamber’s Armed Services Committee.
H.R. 5707, also known as the START Act, would establish a pilot program within the Department of Defense to provide intensive outpatient programs to military service members who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to military sexual trauma (MST). The program would implement private-public partnerships to provide a holistic and integrated approach to treatment. This includes providing healthcare, counseling, family benefits, substance abuse assistance, and other measures.
Intended to operate as a testing ground for these new treatment options, the START Act also requires the Department of Defense to report back to Congress on the efficacy of the program and offer wider policy recommendations based on the findings.
“An essential part of maintaining a strong and capable military is taking care of our service members and ensuring our values are reinforced in the ranks,” Knight said. “Military sexual trauma betrays the dignity of our men and women who volunteer to serve, destroys unit camaraderie, and can have long-term and severe effects on its victims. We need to do a better job to prevent and treat MST. This bipartisan bill we introduced today will go a long way towards helping on the treatment end of this challenge. I want to thank Congresswoman Tsongas, Senator Warren, and Senator Perdue for joining me in this vitally important effort.”
“The START Act is one more tool in the toolbox to combat the scourge of sexual assault in the military and improve lives,” Tsongas explained. “This bill will allow servicemembers suffering from the effects of military sexual trauma to receive comprehensive health care that meets their physical and mental health needs. The bill will also allow for the development of best practices for the care of MST, ensuring survivors are receiving the best care possible, and provide care and support for the family members of MST survivors. I appreciated working with leaders on both sides of the aisle on this legislation that will improve the lives of both servicemembers and their families.”
“With reports of sexual assault in the military on the rise, ensuring that servicemembers can get treatment for post-traumatic stress is powerfully important,” Warren said. “Massachusetts is home to world-class medical institutions whose specialized care can complement DOD and VA services. This bipartisan bill would help improve our understanding of how to treat military sexual trauma and would help more survivors access care.”
“Ensuring the health and well-being of our service members will always be critical to our national security. This is one of the most important duties of Congress,” Perdue stated. “As the Department of Defense works to prevent assault within its ranks, this effort will help us improve medical research, best practices, and treatments for our service members. Thank you to all of our servicewomen and men for your commitment to protecting our country.”