Sexual Harassment/Assault/Trauma News

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Biden Implements Sweeping Changes to How the Military Handles Sexual Assault Cases

Sunday, July 30, 2023 | Category: Sexual Harassment/Assault/Trauma - International

On July 28, 2023, NPR’s Bill Chappell reported:

President Biden signed an executive order Friday implementing sweeping changes to the military justice system's handling of sexual assault cases. The reforms, which won bipartisan approval in Congress, remove serious criminal cases from victims' chain of command and instead place the cases under the authority of trained prosecutors.

"Sexual assault cases in the military have been plagued with concerns from victims who fear coming forward to see prosecutions led by their own commander," as NPR reported last December. "Overall, a very low share of such cases go to trial or see convictions."

House passes defense bill that includes proposal to combat sexual assault in military
House passes defense bill that includes proposal to combat sexual assault in military
The reform effort was led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who has long pushed for changes in how the U.S. military handles sexual assault cases as well as other serious crimes, including domestic violence, child abuse and murder.

It had been up to commanding officers to decide whether to prosecute such cases. But military prosecutors will now make those decisions, rather than commanders.

"While it will take time to see the results of these changes, these measures will instill more trust, professionalism, and confidence in the system," Gillibrand said in a statement sent to NPR.

White House Briefing Room Statement: President Biden Signs Historic Military Sexual Assault Reforms

Sunday, July 30, 2023 | Category: Sexual Harassment/Assault/Trauma - National

FACT SHEET: President Biden to Sign Executive Order Implementing Bipartisan Military Justice Reforms

July 28, 2023

The White House

Today, President Biden will sign an Executive Order to implement historic, bipartisan military justice reforms that significantly strengthen how the military handles sexual assault cases. The Executive Order transfers key decision-making authorities from commanders to specialized, independent military prosecutors in cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, murder, and other serious offenses by amending the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

These changes, which implement reforms passed by Congress in the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (FY22 NDAA), represent the most significant transformation of the military justice system since the UCMJ was established in 1950. The historic reforms announced today will better protect victims and ensure prosecutorial decisions are fully independent from the chain of the command. They follow decades of tireless efforts by survivors, advocates, and Members of Congress, to strengthen the military justice system’s response to gender-based violence and build on recommendations from the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military (IRC), which Secretary Austin established at President Biden’s direction as one of his earliest acts in office.

These reforms are a turning point for survivors of gender-based violence in the military. They fulfill President Biden’s promise to fundamentally shift how the military justice system responds to sexual assault and related crimes, which is something President Biden has prioritized since Day One of this administration. Ending gender-based violence wherever it occurs has been a top priority for the President throughout his career—as a Senator, and as Vice President. As Commander in Chief, he’s made clear that our one truly sacred obligation as a nation is to prepare and equip those we send into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families both while they are deployed and when they return home. The reforms implemented through today’s Executive Order do just that, promoting dignity and respect for those who serve by better protecting our servicemembers and making the military safer and more just.

Today’s Executive Order takes important action to reform our military justice system by amending the Manual for Courts-Martial and its accompanying Rules for Courts-Martial including by:

Establishing the rules that will govern the new Offices of Special Trial Counsel (OSTC), the independent military prosecutors who will now decide, in the place of commanders, whether to prosecute covered offenses such as sexual assault and domestic violence, child abuse, and murder;

Making clear that prosecutorial decisions made by special trial counsel are binding and fully independent from the chain of command;

Delineating the relationship and authorized interactions between special trial counsel and commanders to protect the independence of special trial counsel;

Modernizing procedures to better protect victims and promote fairness before, during and after court-martial proceedings;
Reforming the court-martial sentencing system to promote uniformity and fairness, as recommended by the IRC, to reduce disparities in sentencing in cases of rape and sexual assault; and

Creating a uniform evidence standard for non-judicial punishment actions, which the IRC highlighted as critical to make consistent across the military services given that most sexual misconduct cases are handled by nonjudicial punishment rather than courts-martial.

This month also marks two years since the IRC published its final report, outlining recommendations to improve accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support. Today’s Executive Order advances the IRC’s core accountability recommendations and builds on the progress that has already been made by the Department of Defense in implementing the IRC’s more than 80 recommendations, including:

Establishing the Offices of Special Trial Counsel. In July 2022, with direction from Secretary Austin, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, including the Space Force, established and staffed their OSTCs to assume authority for prosecutorial decisions for covered offenses including sexual assault and domestic violence at the end of 2023. Beginning January 1, 2025, special trial counsel prosecutorial authority will expand to include sexual harassment cases.

Hiring, Training, and Empowering the Prevention Workforce. Consistent with the IRC’s recommendation to establish a dedicated prevention workforce with public health expertise, the Department of Defense launched a phased approach to hiring a primary prevention workforce with 2,000 skilled professionals who will promote the health of their military community and work with leaders to change policies and implement prevention activities. In December 2022, the Department of Defense released guidance for this new workforce, and hiring and onboarding is underway at installations around the world.

Strengthening and Professionalizing the Sexual Assault Response Workforce. The Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Military Services and National Guard has adopted a comprehensive approach to restructuring, professionalizing, strengthening, and resourcing for the sexual assault response workforce. This includes moving Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) and Victim Advocates (VAs) from the command reporting structure, and generally eliminating collateral duty for SARCs and VAs. This standardized approach across the Department of Defense is nearing completion.

Improving the Military’s Response to Domestic Violence and Sexual Harassment. Recognizing sexual assault can overlap with other forms of gender-based violence, the IRC recommended ways to improve accountability and support to survivors of domestic violence and sexual harassment. The Administration has:

Reissued and revised the Defense Department’s domestic abuse policy in December 2021. Key updates include expanding eligibility for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program services to domestic violence survivors who have experienced sexual assault;
Tracked the prevalence of domestic abuse/intimate partner-related sexual assault by collecting information on the victim-perpetrator relationship in the Workplace and Gender Relations Surveys of Active-Duty Members (WGRA), and Workplace and Gender Relations Surveys of Reserve Component Members (WGRR);

Expanded victim advocate services, reporting options and support to survivors of sexual harassment, through new guidance issued by the Department of Defense in September 2022. This guidance has been implemented across all Military Departments;

Starting with the Navy and the Marine Corps, issued policies for the independent investigation of sexual harassment reports, moving these investigations outside the chain of command of both the individual reporting sexual harassment and the alleged offender. The Department of Defense is working to develop a comprehensive approach to address this issue across all Military Departments; and

Amended the Manual for Courts-Martial through an Executive Order in January 2022 that established sexual harassment as a specific offense under the UCMJ, strengthening the military justice response in prosecuting cases of domestic violence, and implementing changes to the UCMJ to criminalize the wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images.

National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month April 2023

Friday, May 5, 2023 | Category: Sexual Harassment/Assault/Trauma - International

The month of April is “National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.” Sexual assault and harassment remain systemically prevalent in many institutions including the United States military.  Long-term prevention measures are needed to effect socio-cultural attitudinal change as well as ensure safe federal work environments where employees can report incidences without fear of reprisal and/or retaliation and receive just knowledgeable and legal representation.

This link includes extensive “Military Sexual Assault” and “Military Sexual Trauma’” references.

This ongoing campaign intends to raise public awareness about sexual violence in our nation and its prevalence within federal, state, public and private institutions and businesses and societal subcultures.

Conference Sparks Dialogue on Preventing Sexual Violence at Service Academies, Colleges

Thursday, April 4, 2019 | Category: Sexual Harassment/Assault/Trauma - National

Military service secretaries and service academy superintendents along with other higher education academic leaders and experts met at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland this week. The intent of the conference was “to find ways to prevent sexual violence and to share initiatives that have shown promise.” This “National Discussion on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at America’s Colleges, Universities, and Service Academies” is the first-ever national meeting addressing this subject. Over 300 attended, about 10 percent of the 1200 invited universities were represented.

In January 2019, the results of a survey showed a 50 percent rise in claims of sexual assault and harassment at the military service academies.

Examining the Role of the Commander in Sexual Assault

Tuesday, April 2, 2019 | Category: Sexual Harassment/Assault/Trauma - National

On April 2, 2019, the House Armed Services Committee hosted two panels composed of military justice reform advocates, military sexual assault survivors and military Judge Advocates. Congresswoman Jackie Spier made opening remarks, noting that the number of reported sexual assaults in the military continues to rise significantly while prosecutions and convictions have decreased. The American Bar Association along with Protect Our Defenders reinforced their position that until the decision to prosecute is made by independent attorneys and not military commanders with convening authority, there will not be an impartial military justice system free of retaliation and wrongful discharges for military personnel.

RAND Report (Volume 5): Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Military

Wednesday, November 7, 2018 | Category: Sexual Harassment/Assault/Trauma - National

RAND released its 2018 “Volume 5. Estimates for Installation- and Command-Level Risk of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment from the 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study.” RAND’s report summary follows:

In early 2014, the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office asked the RAND National Defense Research Institute to conduct an independent assessment of the rates of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination in the military — an assessment last conducted in 2012 by the Department of Defense using the Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members. The resulting RAND Military Workplace Study invited close to 560,000 U.S. service members to participate in a survey fielded in August and September of 2014. This volume presents survey estimates of how risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment varies across military installations and major commands. The researchers find that risk of sexual assault and harassment varies across installations and commands and that these differences are sometimes large. Patterns in these risk estimates offer important insights into the types of environments where service members are most or least likely to be sexually assaulted or harassed. The results may also provide clues about the conditions that contribute to sexual assault risk and about strategies that could be used to prevent sexual assault and harassment.

Senator Demands Probe of Website That Promotes Nude Photos of Female Servicemembers

Monday, October 29, 2018 | Category: Sexual Harassment/Assault/Trauma - National

Kris Goldsmith, a researcher for Vietnam Veterans of America, alerted Senator Claire McCaskill to the hot military girls.com website and spinoff Facebook pages that appeared to depict identifiable nude and clothed female servicemembers, mostly from the U.S. military. The domain for the site which was registered in 2001 is in Canada and it appears the internet protocol address has changed 24 times. Goldsmith expressed concern that the women could be tracked down and blackmailed. Senator McCaskill requested the Pentagon Inspector General initiate an investigation. Although the military is making reforms regarding social media, this is another in a series of similar sites that contribute to a culture of harassment.

Military Sexual Assault: A Detailed Timeline of Sex Crimes in the Military (1979-2017)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 | Category: Sexual Harassment/Assault/Trauma - National

Andrea Januta published this timeline in The War Horse. She states: “This ongoing project examines nearly four decades of military sexual trauma in the U.S. military in an effort to understand the broader context in which the Defense Department has allowed a culture of sexual harassment and abuse to continue. Using government documents, historical records, news of the time, and additional reporting, this timeline illustrates not just the scandals, but the public, legislative, and military responses, as well as the evolution of the Defense Department's policy regarding sexual abuse.

We need your help to chronicle the history of military sexual trauma in the U.S. Armed Forces and how it's been addressed by the U.S. Defense Department.

Contact newstips@thewarhorse.org or message us on Facebook with tips, articles, and documents about scandals you think should be in this history.”

President’s 2018 “National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month” Proclamation

Sunday, April 1, 2018 | Category: Sexual Harassment/Assault/Trauma - National

President Trump released his 2018 “National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month” proclamation.

Hundreds of Lewd Photos of Female Servicemembers Discovered in Dropbox Folder

Monday, March 19, 2018 | Category: Sexual Harassment/Assault/Trauma - International

On March 9, 2018, Alexa Liautaud of Vice News reported:

“The (Dropbox) folder is the latest example of an ongoing problem with revenge porn and online harassment in the U.S. military, one that persists even a year after the revelation of thousands of nude photos of service members shared in a Facebook group called Marines United caused a major scandal. VICE News reported in February on the existence of dozens of informal military social media groups where members continue to share nude photos and make derogatory comments about women, often alongside more banal posts about military life.”

The Department of Defense is again investigating a social media site for posting hundreds of lewd photographs of female servicemembers. The Pentagon confirmed activity on that the site, “Hoes Hoin” likely crosses all military services. The December 2018 National Defense Authorization Act made this activity illegal, approving “court-martial punishment for servicemembers who engaged in the “wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images,” typically nude photographs shared without the subject’s permission, often called revenge porn.”

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