Congressman Tim Ryan Introduces Bill to Protect Victims of Military Sexual Assault from Harassment on the Stand

Rep. Tim Ryan took two major steps to expand protections for survivors of sexual assault this week.  He voted in favor the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Thursday, which included provisions Rep. Ryan introduced earlier this year in the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act.  He also introduced The Shield Act, which will improve protections for victims of sexual assault in pretrial hearings in the military, also known as an Article 32 hearing.

“I am committed to providing strong protections to victims of military sexual assault who choose to publically disclose the crime that was committed against them and participate in the judicial process,” said Congressman Ryan.  “Victims should never be subjected to irrelevant questioning meant to embarrass and humiliate them.  That is why I want to ensure that victims have the protection they need to defend against those types of questions, and a counsel to help enforce that right.”

A month ago Rep. Mike Turner and Rep. Niki Tsongas introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to reform pretrial hearings in the military.  Rep. Tim Ryan supported and cosponsored that reform, and also recognized that more could be done to protect victims of sexual assault at that stage of the process.  So he, along with Rep. Turner, Rep. Tsongas, Rep. Kay Granger, and Rep. Jackie Speier, introduced a bill to provide survivors of sexual assault “rape shield” protections and ensure that a Special Victims’ Counsel can speak on behalf of victims at the hearing.

The Shield Act is meant to supplement the reform measures contained in the NDAA.  The bill provides sexual assault survivors the ability to speak through their own attorney, the Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) established in the NDAA, at the Article 32.  This important right will ensure that an attorney can protect privileged information from being disclosed at the hearing.  The primary privilege that the SVC can help protect will be what’s commonly referred to as “rape shield.”  The bill codifies “rape shield” protections and ensures that a victim cannot be questioned about any irrelevant sexual behavior or sexual predisposition. 

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