Jennifer Massucci, a former Marine, holds a lit candle at a march and vigil for murdered Army Spec. Vanessa Guillen on July 12, 2020 in Austin, Texas.

Jennifer Massucci, a former Marine, holds a lit candle at a march and vigil for murdered Army Spec. Vanessa Guillen on July 12, 2020 in Austin, Texas. Sergio Flores/Getty Images

DoD Makes Recommendations to Close ‘Troubling Gap’ in Sexual Assault Response

Improving victim care, focusing on prevention and removing prosecution from the chain of command are some top priorities of the 300-page report.

U.S. military leaders say there is no tolerance for sexual assault in the force — but a review ordered by the White House found that there is actually “quite a lot of tolerance,” according to one senior administration official.

The Pentagon’s 12-person Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military began its 90-day review on March 24 to study ways to increase accountability, prevent sexual assault, improve the climate and culture, and better care for survivors. After talking with 600 external experts, the panel found that what the Pentagon says about sexual assault and how it handles cases and treats survivors are not the same. 

“We identified that there is a troubling gap between what senior leaders say about this problem and how junior enlisted members experience the problem,” the senior administration official said. “We have heard for many years that there is no tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual assault, but we learned that in practice there is quite a lot of tolerance.” 

To close this gap, the panel is making 28 recommendations and 54 sub-recommendations in a nearly 300-page report released Friday.

One recommendation is to remove the prosecution of sexual assault, sexual harassment and domestic violence cases from the chain of command, an effort for which Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has been fighting on Capitol Hill since 2013. The effort seems to be at a tipping point. While senior defense leaders in the past have strongly pushed back on any effort to strip commanders of this power, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last month that he supports empowering military prosecutors to take on sexual harassment and assault cases. On Capitol Hill, the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act of 2021 has 65 bipartisan cosponsors

The panel is recommending that Congress pass a bill this year, but that the legislation should delay removing prosecution of sex crimes from the chain of command until 2023 to give the Pentagon time to build a structure that will succeed, the senior administration official said. 

It’s not clear whether the Biden administration supports Gillibrand’s legislation, which would transfer serious crimes like rape and sexual assault as well as other felonies such as murder, manslaughter, and child pornography, to a military lawyer for prosecution.

“The president really shares her strong passion to take on this issue,” a second senior administration official said, noting that the review focused only on sexual harassment and assault. “He is really pleased to see there is a growing consensus that these crimes should be taken out of the chain of command, and we’re going to now look to Congress to work out the details for legislating that change.”

The group is also recommending that victim’s advocates report to someone outside of the command structure, to make sure they are “free from any sort of command influence over what sort of services a victim receives,” the first senior administration official said. 

The group also makes some recommendations to be implemented in the short term. One top priority is a study of the victim support workforce within three months, and then taking actions from those findings to improve it within six months because the review found “critical deficiencies” in victim care and support, the first senior administration official said. The report includes recommendations to establish two new positions: the senior policy advisor for special victims and the special victim advocate.

The review also found a “near total lack” of a prevention workforce, despite the frequent talking point that preventing sexual assault is a top priority for the military, the official said. The report recommends establishing a staff to focus entirely on preventing sexual assault and harassment across the services, as well as creating a prevention research capability within the Defense Department.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.