Rep. Lipinski's Legislation to Combat Military Sexual Assault Passes House
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3) announced that his legislation to help address the continuing problem of sexual assault in the military was included as an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that overwhelmingly passed the House today 315-108. Rep. Lipinski’s bill, the SANE Deployment Act, requires each branch of the military to provide professionally trained sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) to assist in sexual assault investigations and provide specialized medical treatment and care to victims, with the ultimate goal of reducing the number of sexual assaults committed within the ranks of the armed forces.
“I am hopeful that the SANE Deployment Act will bring greater attention to the needs of military sexual assault victims and help ensure that the punishment for the offenders fits the crime,” Rep. Lipinski said. “I will always believe that we have the greatest military in the world, but when I started working on this issue last year, it became apparent that the military’s response to dealing with sexual assault was not working. After learning that sexual assault nurse examiners are often not available for victims and punishment in these cases is severely lacking, I was moved to help introduce this common-sense legislation with my colleagues. We need to get this legislation onto the President’s desk to begin to address this problem.”
Rep. Lipinski once again expressed his gratitude to Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) for co-sponsoring the bill and for introducing the amendment based on the bill in the Armed Services Committee. He also thanked Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) for co-sponsoring the legislation.
The SANE Deployment Act requires at least one sexual assault nurse examinerfor each Army brigade, and for equivalent-sized units in the other branches. The SANE will be available to collect evidence during the critical early stages of any sexual assault investigation, while also providing physical and mental care specialized for victims subjected to sexual assault.
The Pentagon estimated in a recent report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, up from an estimated 19,000 assaults in 2011, based on an anonymous survey of military personnel. While the number of sexual assaults that members of the military actually reported rose 6 percent to 3,374 in 2012, thousands of victims were still unwilling to come forward despite new oversight and assistance programs aimed at curbing the crimes, the report said. Less than 10 percent of reported cases ended with conviction at court martial proceedings, with the majority of those resulting in inadequate administrative punishments or dismissal.
In addition to Rep. Lipinski’s amendment, the National Defense Authorization Act addresses the issue of sexual assault in the military through several provisions, including stripping commanders of their ability to dismiss court martial convictions for serious offenses, prohibiting commanders from reducing guilty findings for serious offenses, requiring service members found guilty of rape or sexual assault to be punitively discharged from the military and by making clear that victims can report sexual assault crimes outside of the chain of command through a Service Members Bill of Rights.
“Sexual assaults in the military are part of a complex problem that will not be easily solved. There very well may need to be more steps taken than those that are in the National Defense Authorization Act,” Rep. Lipinski said. “I am hopeful that the SANE Deployment Act can be a piece of the solution by empowering more sexual assault victims and punishing the offenders so all of our women and men in the military can serve confidently, without the fear of being attacked.”
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