Talking about sexual abuse is not enough. A problem so large requires policy solutions.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst has staked out fighting sexual misconduct as one of her biggest policy priorities in the Senate. She has repeatedly shown a refreshing interest in working across party lines, introducing legislation to help combat this pressing issue.
Americans were disgusted as we followed the case of Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics team doctor convicted this year of abusing dozens of young athletes. Multiple women tried to report the abuse, yet the allegations remained secret for years while Nassar continued to work with girls and young women.
Ernst and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced a resolution last week calling for investigation of the U.S. Olympic Committee and national sports governing bodies. The lawmakers hope to uncover the extent to which athletics officials knew about Nassar’s abuse, and make recommendations to prevent such crimes in the future.
The Nassar case offers a clear example that the justice system is not adequately addressing sexual misconduct. Even though this perpetrator will spend the rest of his life in prison, many others are complicit in the cover up, and some remain in positions of power.
“I’m so proud of the courageous young athletes who stood up and fought to ensure Larry Nassar can never lay his hands on another athlete. Now Congress has an opportunity to stand up for the brave survivors who came forward, for our athletes, for our children,” Ernst said during a news conference.
Ernst, an Iowa National Guard veteran, also has helped bring much-needed attention to sex crimes happening in the armed forces. As one example, she and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., are sponsoring legislation to expand the VA’s resources for sexual trauma survivors in the military,
Ernst and her Senate colleagues remind us why it matters when women hold power in government. The men who represent us might condemn these disgusting crimes, but they seldom take necessary action to address them.
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Ernst’s voice is crucial to policy conversations on sexual misconduct, as one of only five Republican women in the Senate, and arguably the most conservative among them. Even Iowans who seldom agree with the junior senator can be proud of her role as a leader against sexual misconduct.
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