Senator Joni Ernst. (file photo)

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, has introduced a bill with a Democrat Senator from New York to mandate in-person sexual assault prevention training for new members of the military. Ernst says this training would add to what’s already in place.

“Those who are currently serving, they do undergo mandatory training when it comes to sexual assault prevention. And we do have many layers within our leadership — whether its our enlisted soldiers or whether its in our officer ranks — that are out there ever day encouraging respectful actions within our military,” Ernst says.

She says they want to have the new recruits get in-person training to so they don’t create an ineffective computer-based teaching program. “You will always find bad actors,” Ernst says, “and what we’re trying to do is really stop that from every happening. Especially by bringing it up right away as young men and women are entering the military.”

Ernst says the training would include proper use of social media for newly enlisted service members in all branches of the U.S. military before they depart for basic training. “They need to be thoroughly briefed on social media, what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable. What would be considered a sexual assault in and out of the military — they need to understand those things,” Ernst explains. “We are taking what society gives us and we are trying to mold them into productive service members.”

Ernst says the 2016 annual report from the Department of Defense estimates that 14,900 service members experienced a sexual assault, compared to 20,300 when the last comprehensive survey was done in 2014. She says even with the drop in those numbers, more needs to be done.