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Secretary Announces New Anti-Sexual Assault Initiatives

By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

August 15, 2013

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Photo by Meghan Portillo

WASHINGTON – The seven new initiatives to combat sexual assault announced by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today continue the pressure on an issue that can erode the effectiveness of the military, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.

“Every service member and DOD civilian deserves a safe environment in which they are free from the threat of sexual harassment and assault,” Little said today during a Pentagon news conference.

Little, along with Jessica L. Wright, the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness; and Army Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the director of the Joint Staff, briefed reporters.

Hagel’s initiatives build on the analysis of DOD sexual assault prevention and response programs, further strengthening the following areas:

  • The secretary directed the services to improve victim legal support. He directed the service secretaries to create a legal advocacy program to provide legal representation to sexual assault victims throughout the judicial process. He set Nov. 1, 2013, as an initial operating capacity for this and for it to be fully functional by Jan. 1, 2014.
  • Hagel directed that pre-trial investigative hearings of sexual assault-related charges be conducted by Judge Advocate General officers.
  • The secretary directed service secretaries to enhance protections, calling on them to develop and implement policies allowing for the reassignment or transfer of members accused of committing sexual assault or related offense. Hagel wants this done in order to eliminate continued contact while respecting the rights of both victims and the accused.
  • Hagel is requiring timely follow-up reports on sexual assault incidents and responses to be given to the first general or flag officer within the chain of command.
  • He also directed the DOD Inspector General to regularly evaluate closed sexual assault investigations.
  • Hagel ordered the service secretaries to standardize prohibitions on inappropriate behavior between recruiters and trainers and their recruits and trainees across the department.
  • And, Hagel directed the DOD general council to develop and propose changes to the Manual for Courts-Martial that would allow victims to give input during the sentencing phase of courts-martial.

These measures will incorporate the best practices of the services and make them common throughout the armed forces, Wright said. She also believes they will enhance the quality of the investigative and legal process and improve victim support.

“We are committed to a dynamic and responsive sexual assault prevention program,” she said. “Through the multi-discipline program, we constantly work to identify new ways to prevent sexual assault, as well as respond effectively and appropriately should a crime occur.”

Wright stressed that prevention and response efforts are not static.

“We continually evaluate our programs and seek ways for the department to improve them,” she said. “The department and military leaders at all levels continue to assess the current policies, identify the need for change, and seek methods to improve prevention and response efforts.”

Scaparrotti said sexual assault is a serious and persistent problem in the military.

“It erodes the trust that is the bedrock of our profession,” he said. “Sexual assault is a crime, and it demands appropriate accountability. We are fully committed to combating sexual harassment and sexual assault in our ranks.”

The bottom line of the initiatives is to make it clear that “sexual assault is not tolerated, not condoned, it is not ignored, and everyone in the department … is responsible to uphold our values and continue an environment of dignity and respect for all,” Wright said.

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