Congressman Tim Ryan and Congresswoman Kay Granger Introduce Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tim Ryan and Congresswoman Kay Granger today introduced the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013, a bipartisan bill that directs the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide a Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) for victims of sexual assault, and implements other significant reforms to prevent sexual assaults and assist victims. The SVC will provide expert legal advice to the victim throughout the process and across the full range of issues: criminal liability, the victim’s responsibility to testify, and assistance in navigating any military or civilian litigation. The legislation also stipulates that the SVCs must be attorneys certified as competent to fulfill this role by the Judge Advocate General of their respective service.
The bill also provides SVCs the authority to act as the victim’s attorney throughout the process, and to represent those victims in Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ hearings where the victim has a right to be heard. The bill also instructs Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs), Victim Advocates, military criminal investigators, victim/witness liaisons, trial counsel, health care providers, and other personnel who may serve as an initial point of contact to inform victims of the availability of SVCs, regardless of whether the victim elects unrestricted or restricted reporting of the assault.
“Recent events make it absolutely clear that the time for action to address the military sexual assault crisis is now,” said Congressman Tim Ryan. “We cannot wait any longer, and that is why I introduced the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013 today, to require immediate and bold reforms in all of the military services.”
“Those who choose a life dedicated to protecting our nation deserve to be honored, respected and protected, but thousands battle sexual assault within their own ranks every year,” said Congresswoman Kay Granger. “This is unacceptable and must be stopped. As a first step, I’m proud to join Congressman Tim Ryan to introduce these critical reforms that better protect victims and hold the perpetrators of sexual assault accountable.”
“The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) fully supports Representative Tim Ryan’s bill, the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013,” said MOAA national President, VADM Norb Ryan, USN-ret. “Ensuring military members are safe from sexual assault is a duty of everyone in the chain of command. Military leaders must create a climate that provides victims better avenues for treatment and legal recourse. This legislation does just that by increasing support for sexual assault victims in our nation’s Armed Forces.”
The Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013 instructs the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office to provide guidance and assistance throughout the services in collecting, maintaining, and disseminating sexual assault data drawn from annual reports from the individual services as well as develop metrics to measure the effectiveness of, and compliance of response and prevention efforts. Each of the services is mandated to track allegations of sexual assault as well as courts-martial and trials of service members for offenses relating to sexual assault. Each service can provide recommendations on modifications to policy, law, and regulations as well as ensuring the continued availability of prevention/response resources, and each service will collaborate and provide the Secretary of Veterans Affairs any records or documents on sexual assault for the purposes of furnishing veterans’ health care, assessing veterans’ benefits, or any other law administered by the Veterans Administration.
Importantly, the bill codifies a requirement for all rape and sexual assault offenses to go to the general court-martial convening authority (GCMCA) for initial disposition. This will over ride current law which allows lower level commanders to dispose of a sexual assault offense. This bill also removes the ability of the convening authority to set aside or reduce a finding of guilty, except for minor offenses. It will ensure that a conviction like the recent one at Aviano Air Base will never again be thrown out by a commander.
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Congressman Tim Ryan
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