Here is some positive news for advocates against sexual and domestic violence. This week, after much anticipation, President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. This includes 19 amendments to significantly reform Department of Defense sexual assault and sexual harassment policies.
This bill is significant in that it has the largest number of sexual violence provisions ever signed into law. The Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) have worked tirelessly for two years to advocate for these changes. While the NDAA is a bill that focuses on the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense (DOD), It also deals with multiple military issues. It is the mechanism used by Congress to provide oversight and mandate change within the military.
Again, SWAN’s advocacy work is key as they provide bipartisan legislative recommendations to both the House and Senate to improve the welfare of service women and women veterans. Kudos to SWAN and their advocacy to introduce more provisions based to improve the way the military handles sexual assault and sexual harassment in the ranks. Specifically, the law now provides for:
- Prohibiting the military from recruiting anyone convicted of a sex offense
- Mandatory separation of convicted sex offenders
- Insurance coverage for abortions in cases of rape or incest for service women and military family members
- Retention of restricted report documentation for 50 years if so desired by the victim
- The creation of “Special Victims Units” to improve investigation, prosecution and victim support in connection with child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault cases
- Allowing victims to return to active duty after separation to help prosecute sex offenders
- The creation of an independent review panel comprised of civilian and military members that will closely examine the way that the DOD investigates, prosecutes, and adjudicates sexual assaults
- Required sexual assault prevention training in pre-command and command courses for officers
- Improved data collection and reporting by the military on sexual assault and sexual harassment cases
- Annual command climate assessment surveys to track individual attitudes toward sexual assault and sexual harassment
- A review of unrestricted sexual assault reports and the nature of any subsequent separations of victims who made those reports
- Notification to service members of the options available for the correction of military records due to any retaliatory personnel action after making a report of sexual assault or sexual harassment
- Requirement for DOD to establish a policy for comprehensive sexual harassment prevention and response
- Language that will allow better oversight and tracking of DOD’s implementation of sexual assault provisions from prior Defense Authorizations in order to ensure they are being enforced properly
SWAN’s goal is to eradicate sexual assault and sexual harassment through the transformation of military culture. The passage of the 2013 NDAA is another critical step in moving the military one step closer to change.
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SWAN is a nonpartisan civil rights organization founded and led by women veterans. SWAN’s works to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and freedom to serve without discrimination, harassment or assault; and to reform veterans’ services to ensure high quality health care and benefits for women veterans and their families.
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