The Defense Department’s New Military Rape Policies Do Not Go Far Enough to Protect Women in Our Armed Services

Target: Department of Defense

Goal: Encourage the Department of Defense and the U.S. Congress to readdress two new military rape policies that are not sufficient to solve the problem of increasing incidences of rape within the U.S. military.

After a recent report released by the Pentagon that estimated 19,000 incidences of rape and sexual assault within the U.S. Military and only 13.5% of these incidences reported, the Department of Defense implemented two new military rape policies. In hopes of halting this disturbing increase in sexual assaults and rape in the military, the Department of Defense enacted these policies to help victims. However, two military-focused human rights groups decry the policies as mere “half-measures” that fail to address the root of the problem.

The Huffington Post reports the two new policies include increased sexual assault education at military academies, and expediting the processing of victims so that they may be transferred to a new unit following an assault. Defense officials will hold focus groups reviewing military sexual assault policies with young cadets in an effort to curb incidences of rape.

Two military interest groups that advocate for human rights, Protect Our Defenders and the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), both agree that these measures will not solve the problem. These groups believe that the real problem is that a single commander is in charge of how rape and sexual assault cases are handled—a commander is responsible for both the victim and the accused, which creates a clear conflict of interest. A commander who must oversee a rape case will have difficulty being objective when deciding if the case should move forward, who will prosecute and defend, and what disciplinary actions should be taken.

The Huffington Post reports that, disturbingly, the problem seems to be starting at a very young age within the armed forces and naval academies. As reported, in 2011 there was a 60% increase in incidents of sexual assault at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy.

So what can be done? Protect Our Defenders and SWAN believe that taking the reporting, oversight and investigation of sexual assaults out of the hands of commanders and placing these responsibilities with an autonomous group of military experts would help remedy the problem. In fact, a new bill called The Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (H.R. 3435) aims to do just this. This bill, introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier, would create a separate group led by military professionals that would deal with cases of sexual assault and victim care.

“We owe our brave women and men in the military a justice process that protects them, not punishes them when they become victims of sexual assault and rape,” says Speier. Please sign below to support The Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act, and call upon the Department of Defense to take further measures necessary to ensure military rape policies are effective.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Department of Defense,

Recently you have implemented two new military rape policies in the hope of curbing incidents of sexual assaults in the U.S. Military. Although these are good starting points, they are not nearly sufficient to effectively prevent rape and sexual assault in the military.

As proposed by two military-focused human rights organizations, Protect Our Defenders and the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), the problem lies within the chain of command. A single commander is in charge of rape and sexual assault cases, and this approach involves a serious conflict of interest. This commander is responsible for both the victim and the assailant, which makes objective decisions about the case very difficult. The selection of who will prosecute and defend, and what disciplinary actions ought to be taken, should be in the hands of an impartial party who aggressively pursues the facts and follows up on victims’ claims.

POD and SWAN recommend that a separate autonomous group of military officials should be responsible for all cases of rape and sexual assault in the military. This group would take care of all reporting, oversight, investigation and victim care in rape and sexual assault cases, taking this power out of the normal chain of command.

Please consider making these changes, and supporting the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (H.R. 3435), which proposes these improvements to military rape policies.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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Photo credit: DVIDSHUB via Flickr

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