Story by Erin Wittkop, Defense Media Activity
Last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released a memo announcing seven new initiatives to combat sexual assault within the military and further bolster the Defense Department’s sexual assault prevention and response programs. Combatting sexual assault has been a top priority for Secretary Hagel since he took office in February.
“This effort requires our absolute and sustained commitment to providing a safe environment in which every service member and DoD civilian is free from the threat of sexual harassment and assault. Our success depends on a dynamic and responsive approach. We, therefore, must continually assess and strive to improve our prevention and response programs.”
Here’s the list of directives Secretary Hagel rolled out:
- Services must improve victim legal support, including legal advocacy programs that provide legal representation to sexual assault victims throughout the judicial process. Initial operating capacity for this directive must be in place by Nov. 1, 2013, and must be fully functional by Jan. 1, 2014.
- Judge Advocate General officers must conduct pre-trial investigative hearings for sexual assault-related charges.
- Service secretaries must develop and implement policies to reassign or transfer individuals accused of committing a sexual assault or related offense in order to eliminate contact and respect the rights of the victim and the accused.
- Timely follow-up reports on sexual assault incidents and responses must be submitted to the first general or flag officer within the chain of command.
- The Defense Department Inspector General must regularly evaluate closed sexual assault investigations.
- Service secretaries must standardize prohibitions on inappropriate behavior between recruiters and trainers and their recruits and trainees across the department.
- The DoD general council must develop and propose changes to the Manual for Courts-Martial that would allow victims to give input during the sentencing phase of courts-martial.
It’s apparent he means business. To support this effort to eradicate sexual assault among the ranks, the services are stepping up their sexual assault response and prevention programs to provide service members with more resources.
The U.S. Navy is implementing new initiatives to ensure sailors’ safety and security, including increased leadership visibility at barracks, a senior flag officer on each installation and fleet concentration area assigned to lead the SAPR program, installation safety improvements and revised alcohol sales policies at Navy exchanges.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathon Greenert has also ordered civilian resilience counselors be deployed to CVN and LHD/LHA commands to support and educate sailors in sexual assault response and prevention, suicide prevention, stress reduction and other concerns.
The Navy isn’t alone in ramping up their SAPR efforts. The U.S. Air Force recently implemented a directive stating that airman found guilty of sexual assault must be discharged after completing any disciplinary action assigned to them.
To support airmen and especially victims, the service also kicked-off a new program called, “Every Airman Counts,” aimed at addressing sexual assault within its ranks by offering informational resources and encouraging airmen to help combat the issue. The first initiative of the program is a blog that features survivors’ stories, forums that allow airmen to connect and share their thoughts, web chats with senior leaders and sexual assault and trauma experts and updates on the latest Air Force SAPR initiatives.
It’s obvious that these efforts are only the beginning in the fight against military sexual assault, but they’re certainly a step in the right direction. Visit the American Forces Press Service Sexual Assault and Prevention special report to keep up with the latest DoD SAPR news and to find more resources for combatting sexual assault.
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