September 10, 2008
Senator Clinton Introduces Legislation to Improve Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program
Resolution is Companion to Rep. Harman's House Bill
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) today introduced a resolution and an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to improve the Pentagon’s handling of sexual assaults on servicemembers. These measures address concerns that sexual assault rates may be on the rise within the military and that many instances of sexual assault go unreported, and comes on the heels of recent findings from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that the Department of Defense’s (DoD) response to sexual assaults is lacking. Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA) has introduced the companion resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives and last month Senator Clinton wrote to the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee requesting a hearing on the issue.“The Pentagon’s response to the growing number of sexual assaults on servicemembers is inadequate and unworthy of our brave women and men in uniform. My legislation, along with Congresswoman Harman’s bill in the House, will take important steps to improve the military’s handling of these terrible crimes and improve protection for victims,” Senator Clinton said.“A woman who signs up to protect her country is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq. I agree with Army Secretary Pete Geren that these crimes are repugnant, immoral and contrary to military values,” said Congresswoman Harman. “It is past time for DOD to draw bright red lines for troops and the chain of command. Senator Clinton is a leader and a great partner committed to solving this problem.”The resolution introduced by Senator Clinton and Congresswoman Harman urges the Pentagon to take several steps to improve its handling of sexual assaults of servicemembers, including launching an extensive review of the military’s policies, training, legal infrastructure, and record on the issue, and establishing new guidelines and procedures for enhanced response. Senator Clinton’s amendment, which is based on the resolution, would also require commanders to be held more accountable for assaults within their units and mandate greater cooperation with local civilian law enforcement. A GAO survey conducted at 14 military installations found 103 servicemembers who said they were the victims of sexual assault, yet approximately half of them never reported their assaults to DoD. According to the GAO, fear of harassment and lack of confidence in the official response motivated many victims to remain silent. GAO found that DoD has failed to provide adequate guidance on implementation of sexual assault prevention and response programs in deployed or joint environments, leaving many servicemembers vulnerable in situations where the risks for sexual assault can be heightened. GAO also found that DoD does not have adequate mental health resources to provide critically needed outreach and treatment to victims of sexual assault.Since 2002, 59,690 female veterans reported being raped, sexual assaulted, or experienced another form of military sexual trauma, constituting almost 20 percent of the women seen at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities nationally, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2007, 2,688 sexual assaults were reported, according to DoD, including 1,259 reports of rape. Yet only 181 of the 2,212 (8 percent) reports investigated during 2007 were referred to courts martial -- a figure far below civilian prosecution rates, where approximately 40 percent of those arrested are prosecuted.