Military Sexual Assault: Don’t Forget the Families
The recent reports detailing an increase in the number of reported cases of sexual assault in the military are troubling. Our Association applauds Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the Service leaders for recognizing the severity of this issue, and we urge them to act decisively to combat it. However, we feel that one group affected by the trauma of sexual assault is too often overlooked: the families. Families of both the victim and the perpetrator may undergo trauma and need counseling resources and support. This can be remedied by educating those involved – family advocacy, legal advocates, law enforcement and unit commanders - about the resources available to share with the families as well as the victims.
It is vital that those who commit sexual assault be tried, convicted, and punished. However, our Association is mindful of the reality that when a service member is convicted of a crime and loses all rights and benefits, the family loses their benefits as well. They have been caught in the chaos and when their service member sponsor is sent to jail or discharged with forfeiture of pay and allowances, they are left with nothing. This presents an extra burden on a family that has already experienced an enormous emotional upheaval through no fault of their own. We are calling on Congress to establish a transitional benefit that would provide families with an allowance as well as temporary eligibility for health care, Commissary and other benefits.
Sexual assault is a horrific crime and has no place in the military. Steps must be taken to prevent sexual assault from happening, support sexual assault victims, and appropriately prosecute offenders. However, we ask Congress and Department of Defense officials not to forget families when formulating solutions to the issue of sexual assault in the military. Families of both the victim and the accused need and deserve support.
Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.
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