NEW YORK January 4, 2013 – On Wednesday night, President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, including 19 provisions on prevention of and response to sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military. Service Women's Action Network partnered with several Congressional offices on these reforms, which mark key steps in eliminating military sexual violence, improving services for victims and bringing offenders to justice.
"We are grateful to Congress and the President for taking adopting these measures, and are ready to roll up our sleeves to push for greater change this year," said Anu Bhagwati, Executive Director of Service Women's Action Network and former Marine Corps Captain. "Chief among our policy goals going forward is moving sexual assault case disposition authority into the hands of military prosecutors and opening civil courts to service members who are victims of sexual violence. We will also continue to apply pressure on VA to reform the disability claims process for victims of Military Sexual Trauma."
Specifically, the law now provides for:
- Prohibiting the military from recruiting anyone convicted of a sex offense
- Mandatory separation of convicted sex offenders
- Insurance coverage for abortions in cases of rape or incest for service women and military family members
- Retention of restricted report documentation for 50 years if so desired by the victim
- The creation of "Special Victims Units" to improve investigation, prosecution and victim support in connection with child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault cases
- Allowing victims to return to active duty after separation to help prosecute sex offenders
- The creation of an independent review panel comprised of civilian and military members that will closely examine the way that the DOD investigates, prosecutes, and adjudicates sexual assaults
- Required sexual assault prevention training in pre-command and command courses for officers
- Improved data collection and reporting by the military on sexual assault and sexual harassment cases
- Annual command climate assessment surveys to track individual attitudes toward sexual assault and sexual harassment
- A review of unrestricted sexual assault reports and the nature of any subsequent separations of victims who made those reports
- Notification to service members of the options available for the correction of military records due to any retaliatory personnel action after making a report of sexual assault or sexual harassment
- Requirement for DOD to establish a comprehensive policy for sexual harassment prevention and response
- Language that will allow better oversight and tracking of DOD's implementation of sexual assault provisions from prior Defense Authorizations in order to ensure they are being enforced properly
SWAN applauds Congress and President Obama for these advances. Staff is available for appearance, comment or interview.
SWAN is a national nonpartisan civil rights organization founded and led by women veterans. SWAN's mission is to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform without discrimination, harassment or assault; and to reform veterans' services to ensure high quality health care and benefits for women veterans and their families. You can follow Service Women's Action Network on Twitter at http://twitter.com/servicewomen, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/servicewomen.
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