Bill to halt rape and sexual assault in the military

Harman Introduces Bipartisan Bill To Halt Rape and Sexual Assault In The Military

July 29, 2008

Washington, DC – Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Chair of the Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee, together with Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), today introduced legislation calling on the Department of Defense to develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent rape and sexual assault in the military.

“That a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire is sickening,” said Harman. “This crisis has reached epidemic proportions and threatens our national security. Better training and rigorous prosecutions are needed to make clear to soldiers, and the command structure, that bright red lines have been drawn.”

Since 2002, 59,690 female veterans reported being raped, sexual assaulted, or experienced another form of military sexual trauma, constituting almost 20% of the women seen at VA facilities nationally, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. In FY 2007, 2,688 sexual assaults were reported, according to DOD, including 1,259 reports of rape. Shockingly, only 181 of the 2,212 (8%) reports investigated during FY 2007 were referred to courts martial — a figure far below civilian prosecution rates, where 40% of those arrested are prosecuted.

“Women serving in our Armed Forces who come forward and report a sexual assault must be protected from their alleged attackers,” said Rep. Turner. “DOD’s record of protecting women who report a rape and prosecute their case is shocking and unacceptable. I believe the legislation that Congresswoman Harman and I have put forward is a critical step in helping to solve this problem.”

Rep. Harman’s bill urges the Department of Defense to develop an effective strategy to investigate and prosecute sexual assault and rape in the military, which includes the following:

* Commanders to be held accountable for assaults that occur in their units and provide justification for disposing of sexual assault cases through non-judicial punishment and other administrative actions.

* The Secretary of Defense to review current training methods for all military investigations staff, including Judge Advocates, and implement any improvements that are necessary.

* Notification of local civilian law enforcement officials of any military protective order issued on base to provide for continuity of protection of victims.

* An opportunity for a base transfer once a servicemember has notified her or his command that she or he has been sexually assaulted or raped.

The Harman-Turner bill is endorsed by the National Women’s Law Center.

“The resolution introduced today by Congresswoman Harman focuses on a crucial issue that must be addressed. Sadly, the number of reported sexual assaults and rapes in the military has increased dramatically and continues to rise. Yet the number of cases that are not prosecuted has reached alarming levels. While the military has made some attempt to investigate these cases, it is not doing nearly enough,” said Nancy Duff Campbell, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center. “In this resolution, Congresswoman Harman, who has long been seen as a leader on issues affecting women in the military, lays out concrete steps for what needs to be done. We urge the House of Representatives to pass it without delay.”

Harman will testify on her bill on Thursday, July 31st, before the National Security & Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the Oversight & Government Reform Committee. Rep. Turner is a member of the hearing panel.

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