ARLINGTON, Va. — The Defense Department issued a new sexual assault policy Tuesday that will replace the services’ four ways of handling such attacks with a common standard, as well as offer more confidentiality for the victim, officials said.

“We are taking fragmented programs and putting them into one cohesive program,” Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David Chu told Pentagon reporters Tuesday.

Chu said the new policy is made up of 11 directives ranging from how complaints are investigated to better care for victims.

One key directive within the new policy, Chu said, is the creation at every installation and deployed location of a “Sexual Assault Response Coordinator,” or SARC, who will be responsible for monitoring every report of assault from start to finish, as well as informing victims of their options for care and possible prosecution of their attackers.

Another key directive, said Air Force Brig. Gen. K.C. McClain, who heads the joint sexual assault prevention task force, is “training, training, training,” throughout servicemembers’ careers.

But ultimately, the key will be making servicemembers feel comfortable about reporting sexual crimes, Chu said.

Fear that reporting sexual assault will damage reputations and careers “is a proven barrier that victims carry,” Chu said.

Victims also fear repercussions for violations they may have committed before or during an assault, such as excess drinking, Chu acknowledged.

“To the extent possible, commanders should delay the determination of disciplinary actions for a victim’s collateral misconduct related to the circumstances of an alleged sexual assault” until the final disposition is completed, the directive says.

The 2005 defense budget authorization ordered the Defense Department to develop and deliver a new the sexual assault prevention policy by Jan. 1.

In response to that order, the policy’s 11 directives have been sent to Congress and to all four services, Chu said.

Now it will be up to a Joint Task Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, which has members from all the services, to flesh out and implement all the directives, McClain said.

Sexual assault in the military has been a growing issue since the war on terror began; reports came in that women in Iraq and Kuwait were being assaulted by other deployed servicemembers.

The Defense Department “understands our traditional system does not afford” sexual assault victims with the care and treatment they need, Chu said.

Last February, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered the Defense Department to conduct a 90-day study on how sexual assault victims are treated in the military.

The report, released in April, recommended the creation of a single place within DOD that would oversee sexual assault response.

The result was the Joint Task Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, which developed a new policy “that will ensure … that the same support system so all assault cases are responded to appropriately and in a timely manner,” Chu said.

But it might take several years for all the policies to be implemented, according to McClain.

“There is no silver bullet,” she told reporters Tuesday. “It will take time” to implement all the directives.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now