Pentagon says no to “Office of Victim Advocate”

In spite of a Defense Department report from its Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response in March, detailing a 40% increase in alleged sexual assaults in a single year, the Pentagon has rejected a "proposal to establish an office to assist victims of sexual assault in the military."

A number of groups concerned with the problem of sexual assault in the US Armed Forces, along with Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Democrat from New York, had called for the creation of an "Office of Victim Advocate" within Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office. A contracted study submitted by researchers at the Wellesley College Centers for Women on the establishment of the office had been considered within the Pentagon, but a brief report in the Washington Times on July 7 indicated that the proposal had been shot down within the Defense Department.

The Pentagon declined to offer a detailed explanation of why the study's recommendations were not implemented. A spokesman only told RAW STORY "the Department does not tolerate sexual assault of any kind and the department has worked vigorously to implement programs to prevent [it]."

...However, Anita Sanchez, the Director of Communications at the Miles Foundation, an organization that advocates for military programs to prevent and respond to sexual assault, sees problems with the current approach. She told RAW STORY that for many of the advocates, "This is a voluntary position, many are uniformed personnel, and for both the victim and the advocates themselves it poses issues. They have limited education and training, and their background is not within this type of assistance or services."

These concerns were echoed by Rep. Slaughter, who warned that in the military, "victim services remain incomplete and inconsistent among the various branches. There have been reports that victims advocates, charged with protecting the victim's rights, have been denied resources to do their job, and in some instances been forced off the base all together," and added that in the absence of better services, "the military will continue to lose valuable female and male soldiers."
There's much more at the link.

Rep. Slaughter has been working tirelessly on this issue for a long time, from seeking protections for soldiers on active duty to addressing issues of sexual assault at military academies. Each time she brings up a new issue, the response is the same. The military takes these issues seriously, but isn't willing to make any changes -- two diametrically opposed statements, as taking sexual assault seriously necessitates making some much-needed changes in policy.

(Crossposted at AlterNet PEEK.)

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