Panetta announces new measures to combat sexual assault
WASHINGTON — The U.S. military won’t tolerate sexual assault, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday as he announced new Defense Department measures designed to -reduce what has been an increasingly reported crime.
“Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to keep America safe,” Panetta said. “We have a moral duty to keep them safe from those who would attack their dignity and their honor.”
In 2011, there were 3,191 reports of sexual assault, Panetta said, a number that has been rising since 2005, when the Defense Department began tracking sexual assault reports using the current methodology.
But because sexual assault frequently goes unreported, the true number of sexual assaults that took place in 2011 is probably closer to 19,000, he said.
Panetta announced the creation of a new DOD program requiring military sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates, whose job is to oversee the care of victims from the time of the initial report, to receive training that measures up to national civilian agency standards.
In addition, military spouses and adult children, as well as DOD civilians outside of the United States, will be able to file confidential reports of assault, just as servicemembers can, Panetta said.
DOD will allot $9.3 million over five years for training to improve investigations and prosecutions, Panetta said. Additionally, the Pentagon will issue a report within 120 days assessing training of commanders in matters relating to sexual assault.
Late last month, just as the U.S. service academies were announcing an uptick in sexual assault reports, the DOD announced two other measures, one of which allows victims of reported sexual assault quick transfers to other units. The other requires records to be retained for 50 years, which, Panetta said, would facilitating future veteran’s compensation claims.