WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEWS CENTER) - Victims of sexual assault and harassment in the military are gathering this week for a groundbreaking conference in Washington D.C.
For the first time in a public setting, Maine veterans are sharing their harrowing stories with peers from across the country.
They're demanding action from Congress, the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration to put a stop to the attacks and to put in place a system to stringently prosecute offenders.
Maine's Congressional delegation has been at the forefront of legislation to address the issue. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree says she is still shocked by what she hears from people serving and from veterans - some dating back to World War Two - who have been attacked and often told to "suck it up", or "stand by their unit" rather than report it and pursue prosecution.
"We haven't gone far enough yet," says Maine Democratic Representative Chellie Pingree, "Secretary Panetta has said we're gonna make real changes that we're gonna have a special court martial because lets face it until people are really prosecuted zero tolerance policy will be well, zero tolerance unless you get away with it and somebody covers it up and nobody tells anybody."
Congresswoman Pingree says the timing of this conference is crucial. The male and female victims who spoke Monday also visited their respective congressional representatives to seek action.
On Wednesday, Congress begins voting on the Defense Reauthorization Bill which includes funding for sexual assault prevention and prosecution programs.