A House Veterans Affairs Committee policy adviser says she was sexually assaulted at the VA Medical Center in Washington just after attending a meeting about a bill to curb assault and harassment in VA hospitals, the New York Times reported Thursday.
According to the paper, Andrea Goldstein, a reserve Navy intelligence officer and a lead staff member for the House committee’s Women Veterans Task Force, said she had the draft of the bill in her purse when she was attacked. She was waiting at the cafe of the medical center when she says a man slammed her below the waist and told her “you look like you could use a good time.”
“He pressed his entire body against mine,” she told the Times the attacker said to her.
Goldstein said she was at the medical center for an appointment following a meeting with California Rep. Julia Brownley, chair of the task force.
“We had put finishing touches of a bill which was in my purse,” she said.
Goldstein said she didn’t learn who her attacker was, but said he wasn’t an employee of the center. She then found center employees and alerted them of the situation, but said the police weren’t called until she got to her doctor. Goldstein’s allegation illustrates a critical issue at the VA as it tries to keep up with a growing female veteran population. From the Times:
Many female veterans praise the care they get at the hospitals, but describe a difficult journey walking through them, in which they may be harassed or assaulted by male veterans, or have their own status as veterans questioned.
“I have preferred the care I get at the V.A.” Ms. Goldstein said. “The women’s clinic is beautiful, and the staff there is wonderful. But that environment is in stark contrast to the rest of the D.C. V.A., which is very male and very chaotic.”
In response to the assault, California Rep. Mark Takano, chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, wrote a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie seeking an arrest. Christina Mandreucci, a spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told the Times that the VA was treating the allegations seriously but isn’t commenting further to protect the investigation.
Goldstein, meanwhile, said she’ll continue going to the facility, but believes the department could use a more unified system to address harassment.
“I really don’t want women veterans to be discouraged by this,” Goldstein said. “I frankly have received lifesaving care from the VA, and I hope the VA gives the necessary attention to this issue so all veterans have access to the health care they have earned and deserve.”