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Capital Beat

Ayotte talks military sex assaults at White House meeting

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte was at the White House today to discuss a bill she’s filed to address the problem of sexual assaults in the military.

According to her office, the New Hampshire Republican was part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who met with Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama, and the first lady’s chief of staff, Tina Tchen.

“I appreciated the administration’s invitation today to discuss efforts to prevent sexual assault in the military and ensure victims have the resources they need and deserve,” Ayotte said in a news release. “We must strengthen existing laws and policies so that perpetrators face justice and victims can come forward without fear of retribution and with confidence that they will receive the support, care, and justice they deserve.”

Ayotte, along with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, filed the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013 this week. The Department of Defense estimates that there may have been 26,000 sexual assaults involving military personnel in 2012, though only 3,374 were reported.

Ayotte serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Updated, May 10: New Hampshire’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, was also at the White House meeting, according to her office. She also serves on the Armed Services Committee and sent a letter yesterday to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and members of the military’s Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel asking for faster action to address “the crisis of sexual assault within our military.”

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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