Secretary Announces New Anti-Sexual Assault Initiatives
On August 15, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a memorandum detailing seven new initiatives to prevent and respond to sexual assault in the military. In his message to the Services, the Secretary emphasized that eliminating sexual assault in the military is one of his top priorities. The new policies are intended to improve victim support, strengthen pretrial investigations, enhance oversight, and make prevention and response efforts more consistent across the military services. However, we note that the new policies do nothing to address the trauma experienced by families of victims and perpetrators.
Under the new policies outlined by the Secretary, the Services and the Department are directed to:
- Create an advocacy program to provide legal representation to sexual assault victims
- Provide commanders with options to reassign or transfer service members accused of sexual assault
- Ensure that pretrial investigative hearings of sexual assault-related charges are conducted by judge advocates general (JAG) officers
- Require that reports on sexual assaults and responses be sent to the first general or flag officer in the chain of command
- Allow victims of sexual assault to provide input during the sentencing phase of courts-martial
The Secretary also directed the Department of Defense Inspector General to regularly review closed sexual assault investigations and charged the Services with standardizing prohibitions on inappropriate behavior by recruiters and trainers.
The National Military Family Association applauds the Department’s initiatives to prevent sexual assault. However, we remain concerned about the families of victims and perpetrators, who themselves have experienced emotional trauma and need support. We also note that families of service members convicted of crimes, including sexual assault, face losing housing, pay, and health care through no fault of their own. We urge Congress and the Department to take steps to make sure family members caught up in these circumstances receive the support they need.
Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.
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