Panetta, Dempsey Announce Initiatives to Stop Sexual Assault

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2012 — The Pentagon’s top civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­ers took their cam­paign to stop sex­u­al assault in the mil­i­tary to Capi­tol Hill today, where they announced new ini­tia­tives to com­bat the prob­lem.

Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta and Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with reporters after meet­ing with three mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives who are work­ing on the issue.

“Gen­er­al Dempsey and I con­sid­er this a seri­ous prob­lem that needs to be addressed,” Panet­ta said. “It vio­lates every­thing the U.S. mil­i­tary stands for.”

Panet­ta and Dempsey met with Rep. Loret­ta Sanchez of Cal­i­for­nia, Rep. Mike Turn­er of Ohio, and Rep. Niki Tsongas of Mass­a­chu­setts. Sanchez chairs the Cau­cus on Women in the Mil­i­tary, while Turn­er and Tsongas co-chair the Mil­i­tary Sex­u­al Assault Pre­ven­tion Cau­cus.

“Ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies must feel secure enough to report this crime with­out fear of ret­ri­bu­tion, and com­man­ders must hold offend­ers appro­pri­ate­ly account­able,” the sec­re­tary said.

One Defense Depart­ment ini­tia­tive will ele­vate the lev­el of inves­ti­ga­tion for the most seri­ous sex­u­al assault alle­ga­tions. Local unit com­man­ders will be required to report alle­ga­tions of rape, forcible sodomy and sex­u­al assault, as well as attempts of those offens­es, to a spe­cial court-mar­tial con­ven­ing author­i­ty, usu­al­ly a colonel or Navy cap­tain.

That change will ensure that sex­u­al assault cas­es receive high-lev­el atten­tion and that cas­es remain in the chain of com­mand, Panet­ta said.

The ini­tia­tives also include:

— Estab­lish­ing with con­gres­sion­al approval a “spe­cial vic­tims’ unit” with­in each ser­vice com­posed of spe­cial­ly trained experts in evi­dence col­lec­tion, inter­view­ing and work­ing with vic­tims;

— Requir­ing that sex­u­al assault poli­cies be explained to all ser­vice mem­bers with­in 14 days of their entry into active duty;

— Allow­ing Nation­al Guard and Reserve per­son­nel who have been sex­u­al­ly assault­ed to remain on active duty sta­tus to obtain the treat­ment and sup­port afford­ed to active-duty mem­bers;

— Requir­ing a record of the out­come of dis­ci­pli­nary and admin­is­tra­tive pro­ceed­ings relat­ed to sex­u­al assault and retain­ing the records cen­tral­ly;

— Requir­ing com­man­ders to con­duct annu­al orga­ni­za­tion­al cli­mate assess­ments to mea­sure whether they are meet­ing the department’s goal of a cul­ture of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and zero tol­er­ance of sex­u­al assault;

— Enhanc­ing train­ing pro­grams for sex­u­al assault pre­ven­tion, includ­ing train­ing for new mil­i­tary com­man­ders in han­dling sex­u­al assault mat­ters; and

— Man­dat­ing wider pub­lic dis­sem­i­na­tion of avail­able sex­u­al assault resources, such as DOD’s “Safe Helpline,” a 24/7 helpline via Web, phone or text mes­sage oper­at­ed by the non­prof­it Rape, Abuse, and Incest Nation­al Net­work. The helpline, which assist­ed more than 770 peo­ple between April and Sep­tem­ber last year, is avail­able at 877–995-5247 or

The ini­tia­tives build on oth­ers announced in the past year that include appoint­ing a two-star gen­er­al to head the department’s Sex­u­al Assault Pre­ven­tion and Response Office, and expand­ing legal assis­tance to mil­i­tary spous­es and adult mil­i­tary depen­dents.

Panet­ta called the changes “a strong pack­age,” but he added that “there is no sil­ver bul­let.” All mil­i­tary lead­ers at every lev­el must under­stand that they have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to stop sex­u­al assault, he said.

Dempsey said he agrees with the changes because the crime of sex­u­al assault erodes the trust asso­ci­at­ed with being in the U.S. mil­i­tary.

“We must send the sig­nal that this is not a prob­lem we are going to ignore,” Panet­ta said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)