Military affairs beat: Military sex assault directives now law

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 10, 2012 - 6:47 PM

The Department of Defense is now required to develop a coordinated policy to preserve documents and evidence of sexual assault in the military. The provision, pushed by Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was part of the National Defense Authorization Act signed into law last week by President Obama.

In addition to the provision, Klobuchar also included an amendment requiring the Defense Department to guarantee storage of most documents connected with reports of sexual assaults in the military for an estimated 50 years.

"If an American in uniform suffers the horrific trauma of sexual assault while fighting for their country, they shouldn't have to fight to receive care and pursue justice," Klobuchar said in a statement.

In 2008, 21 percent of women tested by the military were found to have been the victims of MST, or military sexual trauma. There were 3,158 official reports of sexual assaults in the military in 2010. The Pentagon estimates this number represents only 13 to 14 percent of total assaults -- making the total estimated number of sexual assaults in the military likely more than 19,000 in 2010. It's believed that sexual trauma is the leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among women in the military.

The provisions require the Department of Defense to develop a policy to ensure the preservation of documents connected with reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment. It also ensures the privacy and the protection of the identity of both the victim and perpetrator. It also allows the Department of Veterans Affairs access to documents only at the request of a service member, to help with processing a claim for disability compensation. Victims of sexual assault and trauma in the military who might not immediately report the case but seek benefits and treatment for it afterward.

The Pentagon also will be allowed to review the data to improve research and reporting, but it won't be given access to the names of individuals named in the reports.

mbrunswick@startribune.com • 612-673-4434

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