President Barack Obama addresses the audience in the East Room of the White House.

WASHINGTON (Jan. 22, 2014) -- President Barack Obama today addressed what he called the "profound injustice" of sexual assaults in the military.

During a White House Council on Women and Girls event in the East Room, the president reaffirmed his administration's commitment to preventing sexual violence in America.

With Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other Cabinet members on hand, the president noted the effects of sexual violence on American society, including the military

"When a member of our military is assaulted by the very people he or she trusted and serves with, or when they leave the military, voluntarily or involuntarily, because they were raped, that's a profound injustice that no one who volunteers to defend America should ever have to endure," he said.

As commander in chief, the president said, he has made it clear that military leadership must deal aggressively with sexual assault in the armed forces.

"It has been going on too long, and we have an obligation to protect the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect us," he said. "And Secretary Hagel and [Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey] have already taken steps to reduce violence and support those who have been harmed. But I've made it clear I expect significant progress in the year ahead. These crimes have no place in the greatest military on Earth."

Earlier in the day, Obama said, he met with Vice President Joe Biden, Hagel, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder, and other members of his staff to discuss the way forward. "I want to make sure we're doing everything we can to spare another American the trauma of sexual assault," the president said.

Page last updated Wed January 22nd, 2014 at 00:00