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After two years of struggling to craft a policy on tracking and prosecuting sexual assaults in the military and protecting victims, the Defense Department on Thursday published new rules that establish protocols for medical care, counseling, investigations and prosecution, as well as DoD-wide awareness training.
The decision largely follows requirements established by the 2013 Defense Authorization Act, which included provisions designed to improve the rights of military victims of rape and sexual assault and improve criminal prosecution of offenders.
Among the changes:
Improved sexual assault response capabilities, including medical care, counseling and trained victim advocates around the clock at installations, including deployed areas.
Requirements that detailed records be kept on allegations and subsequent administrative actions or counseling referrals if charges are not filed.
Guidance on transferring victims of sexual assault without hurting their careers.
Training requirements for sexual assault counselors, commanders and those involved in investigations, as well as for all military personnel, on sexual assault prevention and procedures following an incident.
The new rule also eliminates recruitment waivers for those convicted of sexual assault or registered sex offenders, further strengthening a 2009 DoD policy restricting criminal waivers for those seeking to join the military.
About 2,600 troops report an assault each year, but DoD estimates the actual number of assaults could be as high as 19,000 because the vast majority go unreported.
The new rule, which goes into effect immediately, aims to establish “comprehensive guidance and procedures with which the Defense Department may establish a culture free of sexual assault,” according to the notice in the Federal Register.