US Secretary of Defense Supports Dropping Sexual Assault Prosecutions from Chain of Command | Voice of America

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US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Tuesday he would work with Congress to transfer sexual assault prosecutions to military commanders.

In a statement expressing support for recommendations made by an independent review panel, Austin said he also supported changing the prosecution process for related crimes such as domestic violence.

“I support this as well, given the strong correlation between these types of crimes and the prevalence of sexual assault,” Austin said.

The Pentagon chief is scheduled to appear before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday for a hearing on the department’s budget.

Sexual assault in the US military has long been a target for reform, including by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand who introduced legislation that would make independent prosecutors responsible for handling sexual assault cases as well as other major crimes .

A 2018 Pentagon investigation estimated that more than 20,000 U.S. military personnel were sexually assaulted that year.

Reports of sexual assault in the US military Spike

The Pentagon says reports of military sexual assaults jumped 13% last year, but an anonymous survey of service members suggests the problem is much bigger. The results of the investigation revealed that more than 20,000 military personnel reported having experienced some type of unwanted sexual contact, and only about a third of them filed an official report of sexual assault. The survey covers 2018 and was released on Thursday. The survey total is around 37% higher than two years ago, in the last survey.

Austin said Tuesday the issue called for greater accountability and for the Pentagon to change the way it approaches prevention and victim services.

“I appreciate the support that the ministry’s civilian and military leaders have given to the commission, and the thoughtfulness with which they have advised me as we develop effective ways to implement the changes we need to eliminate them. sexual assault and sexual harassment from our ranks, ”says Austin. “As I made clear on my first full day in office, this is all about leadership. And we will lead. Our people depend on it. They deserve nothing less.

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