Congresswoman Jackie Speier Passes 11 Military Sexual Assault Amendments in the National Defense Authorization Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo Counties) issued the following statement after the Committee passed eleven of her military sexual assault amendments as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016. They include a suite of reforms to improve the military justice system’s provisions that apply to victims of sexual trauma; to preserve and make available records from military courts-martial; and to eliminate the military sex offender tracking loophole.
“This collection of reforms will make the Uniform Code of Military Justice more fair and responsive to victims of military sexual assault,” said Speier. “We are nowhere near eliminating this epidemic, but today we have made concrete progress toward adopting a modern military code that treats victims with the respect they deserve.”
Closing the military sex offender tracking loophole
This amendment directs the Department of Defense (DoD) to create a law enforcement database of current servicemembers and employees who are registered sex offenders, and of sex offenders who have been convicted in military courts. When convicted military sex offenders fail to register after being released from active duty, this amendment directs DoD to make their information available online.
It also mandates that DoD’s annual Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) report include information on how many convicted military sex offenders do or do not register with a local sex offender registry after their release from the military.
“This amendment closes a terrifying legal loophole that enables the release of sex offenders who were convicted in military courts into American communities without warning. Their names will become publicly searchable and these predators will no longer be able to go undetected.”
Public availability of records
This amendment requires the Department of Defense to create an online directory, open to the public, that will include records from special and general court-martial proceedings. This amendment specifies the judicial proceedings and types of records that must be available.
“Civilian court records have been available to the public via searchable databases for years, but military case records are hidden and can only be accessed through the FOIA process, if at all. This is absurd. This amendment ensures that members of the public will be able to easily and quickly see these public records.”
Timely notification to victims of sex-related offenses of Special Victims Council availability
This amendment requires the military to notify sexual assault victims of the availability of a Special Victims Counsel before the victim may be interviewed or asked for a statement by investigators.
“This ends the absurd situation where military criminal investigators can interview victims about a sexual assault before informing them of their right to have a Special Victims Counsel. What’s the point of having access to a Special Victims Counsel if you don’t know about it? This ensures victims are aware of their rights and properly represented before speaking to law enforcement.”
Access to Special Victims Counsel for former dependents of current and former servicemembers
This amendment expands Special Victims Counsel eligibility to former dependents of current and former servicemembers, such as divorced spouses or adult children, when the alleged assailant is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
“When a military wife is raped by her husband, she is eligible for a Special Victims Counsel. However, if they divorce, she may lose eligibility—forcing spouses to choose between keeping their attorney or separating from their assailant. This amendment ensures that, in cases like these, dependents will keep their representation.”
Representation and assistance from Special Victims Counsel in retaliatory proceedings
This amendment ensures that Special Victims Counsels will provide legal representation and assistance when the victim faces retaliation.
“Given that a staggering sixty-two percent of servicemembers who report a sexual assault face retaliation, it is especially essential that these members are able to rely on the assistance and protection of a Special Victims Counsel through such proceedings. This amendment makes sure that victims have someone by their side who can advocate for their rights.”
Victim access to Article 32 disciplinary hearing reports
This amendment provides victims with an Article 32 hearing report, at no charge, at the same time that the report is delivered to the accused of a sexual offense.
“An Article 32 report provides the hearing officer’s analysis of a case and whether to proceed to trial. But many victims never see this report. My amendment would allow them to receive Article 32 reports when the accused does, so that they can make informed decisions on their participation in the court-martial process.”
Modification of manual for courts-martial to require consistent preparation of the full record of trial
This amendment mandates that the Department of Defense prepare a complete record of trial (including transcripts, exhibits, and other trial materials) for all general and special court-martial proceedings, regardless of the final verdict or sentence.
“If a defendant is not found guilty in a court-martial, the military does not make a complete record of trial. In otherwords, exhibits, motions, and other evidence aren’t put together in a central location, and there’s no transcript made of that public proceeding. As a result, victims and the public can’t find out what actually happened during a court-martial. This amendment will shine a light on what is really happening in these cases.”
Retention of case notes in military criminal investigations
This amendment ensures that, for any military investigation, all elements of an original case file, including notes from the investigating agent, will be stored for a minimum of 50 years.
“This remedies a situation where the DoD Inspector General has been unable to fully oversee closed sexual assault cases. In the Navy, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) destroys case notes and other documentation soon after the military justice process concludes. This amendment will enable oversight by the Inspector General and by the public.”
Updates to the annual SAPRO report
This amendment requires the annual SAPRO report to include statistics on sexual harassment, on sexual assault that occurs within a domestic violence context, and on retaliation against servicemembers who report a sexual assault.
“The Defense Department does not consistently track official reports of sexual misconduct or retaliation, even as these issues have a devastating impact on military readiness. My amendment will make them provide these vital statistics, allowing Congress and the public to learn how much sexual misconduct is really occurring in the military so that we can better remedy the problem.”
Victim participation in punitive proceedings and access to records
In cases where a perpetrator of a sexual assault faces non-judicial punishment or an administrative separation board, this amendment provides victims with the opportunity to submit matters for consideration. It also ensures that victims are provided with all prepared records of the proceedings, so that they know what punishment the accused received if any.
“Sexual assault cases aren’t always handled through a court-martial. Instead, they go through other disciplinary procedures. But victims should still have a right to participate. My amendment would ensure that they are no longer shut out of the process, unable to provide testimony or even to learn to what happened to their assailant.”
Inspector General review of personality and adjustment disorder separations
This amendment directs the Department of Defense Inspector General to conduct a review of separations of servicemembers who made an unrestricted report of sexual assault. The report will include information on how many were separated on the basis of personality or adjustment disorder diagnoses.
“For years, servicemembers have been forced out of the military simply for reporting a sexual assault, often under the pretext of a false personality or adjustment disorder diagnosis. This report will finally allow us to assess the scale of this issue so that we can begin to crack down on this life-altering type of retaliation.”