Efforts to Combat Sexual Assault Take Center StagePosted: May 1, 2014
In the past year, several damning reports have highlighted the serious problem with sexual assault and harassment in the military. Women Senators including Republican Susan Collins have taken the lead on several bills to address the issues of prosecution and response while U.S. military officials have pleaded with the White House, Congress and the public to trust commanders to fix it on their own terms. But repeated examples of senior officials becoming the target of such accusations and a new report from the Department of Defense this week is now forcing leaders into action. The new numbers reveal that that reports of sexual assault within the military have increased by 50% since the Pentagon launched its initial awareness campaign. In response to the findings, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Thursday a greater focus on prevention including efforts to increase intervention and response training for Military commanders and to research the use of alcohol as a weapon in a majority of cases. According to the recent report, nearly two-thirds of the reported sexual assault cases involved alcohol. The report, however, also noted that there has been an increase in the response to the assaults with 73% of cases being prosecuted in 2013 up from 66% in 2012.
These findings come the same week the administration debuted its new efforts to fight sexual assault on college campuses nationwide, putting pressure on colleges and universities to protect victims. A White House task force on Tuesday unveiled a list of 55 colleges and universities under examination as well as an extensive set of recommendations to offer better services to victims of sexual assault on campuses, including providing campuses with a toolkit to conduct a climate survey by 2016. The Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Justice are working together on this issue.
Perhaps in a show of solidarity with the renewed focus on this difficult and widespread issue, the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved funding to train all member offices in preventing sexual harassment.