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HEIDELBERG, Germany — A military task force responsible for investigating the problem of sexual assault within the ranks will be in Heidelberg on Monday and Tuesday to see how effective programs are in Europe and meet with members of the public.

The Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services is conducting a worldwide assessment of Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force installations.

The visit to Europe follows a recent Government Accountability Office report that stated that the Defense Department is not doing enough to confront the problem of sexual assault in the military.

During their two-day visit in Heidelberg, members of the task force will be available to meet individually with members of the public as well as with victims of past sexual assaults. But victims whose cases are still being litigated are asked not to meet with the group to avoid jeopardizing their respective investigations, according to a U.S. Army Europe news release.

The event is open to people from all USAREUR and Installation Management Command-Europe communities.

It has been four years since Congress ordered the military to formally address the problem of assault through the formation of the task force. But during an August congressional hearing, lawmakers had harsh words for the military and scolded Defense Department leaders over a lack of progress.

Brenda Farrell, the GAO director who wrote a 12-page report that was part of the hearing, also chided the department for failing to take action on its own to remedy its shortcomings.

For 21 months ending Sept. 30, 2007, a total of 2,688 sexual assaults were reported involving military members, according to the Defense Department. Of those, 1,182 suspected violators were referred to their commanders for possible action, of which 181 went to court-martial. Another 572 were awaiting disposition.

Once the worldwide assessment is complete, the task force will submit its findings to Congress about trends in the military on sexual assault programs and how assaults are handled after they are reported.

If you go:What: A meeting with the Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault

Where: USAG Heidelberg’s Community Shopping Center, Building 3850, Room 222.

When: Monday, 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Tuesday, 1:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

To make a special appointment, call Heidelberg’s sexual assault response coordinator at 0170-609-2862.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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