US Military Announces Plans for Reforming Sexual Assaults

The US military on Wednesday (22/9) announced plans to enact a series of recommendations to deal with sexual assault and sexual harassment among its personnel.

An independent review panel outlined a series of actions the Department of Defense should take to address accountability, prevention, culture and victim care issues.

Menhan AS Lloyd Austin.

Menhan AS Lloyd Austin.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday (23/9) approved a scheme to take those measures, saying he hoped Pentagon leaders would “act quickly and carefully to implement them.”

“I have made clear from day one as Secretary of Defense that we must do more to eliminate sexual assault and sexual harassment from across the board. I stated from the start that this is a leadership issue, and we will lead,” Austin said in a memo.

Some of the recommendations have already been implemented, but others require staff identification and recruitment. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told reporters it would take until 2027 to fully implement the first of the plan’s four stages.

Kathleen Hicks.

Kathleen Hicks.

Pentagon officials called the first phase the most comprehensive and the basis for the overall change. The overhaul includes removing sexual assault and sexual harassment prosecutions from the military’s chain of command, establishing an independent sexual assault investigator, holding personnel accountable for cyber harassment, and looking at ways in which allied countries compensate victims of sexual assault.

A 2018 Pentagon survey estimated that more than 20,000 members of the US military experienced sexual assault that year. [uh/ab]

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