For Immediate Release

May 8, 2014

 

Contact:

DC – Bill Silverfarb (202) 225-3531 / (202) 957-4340 cell

Bill.Silverfarb@mail.house.gov

 

CA – Katrina Rill (650) 342-0300 / (650) 208-7441 cell

Katrina.Rill@mail.house.gov

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo/Redwood City) made the following statement her four amendments addressing military sexual assault were approved by the House Armed Services Committee for the National Defense Authorization Act of FY2015. Her bipartisan amendment to strip the military’s chain of command of its authority to prosecute sexual assault cases was narrowly defeated by a vote of 28-34.

 

“We continue to make progress but until the chain of command is stripped of its power to prosecute sexual assault cases the system will remain broken,” Congresswoman Speier said. “These amendments will bring greater protections to the service members brave enough to report they were raped or sexually assaulted. The growing support for taking sexual assault offenses out of the chain of command should encourage survivors and service members that we are closer than ever to creating a fair military justice system free of the bias that plagues it now.” 

 

SPEIER’S SEXUAL ASSAULT RELATED AMENDMENTS INCLUDED IN NDAA

Good military character

This amendment narrows the good military character evidence admissibility language and specifies that the good military character defense may only be used for specific military offenses such as being AWOL or disobeying an order. The good military character defense will be eliminated from the findings phase of courts-martial and cannot be used as a complete defense to a charge of sexual assault.

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“Good military character has absolutely nothing to do with whether someone is a serial predator. How well an individual flies a jet or performs any other military duty will finally no longer be a defense to unrelated offenses like sexual assault.”

 

Privacy protection/Victims right to appeal rulings

Currently, alleged victims have no effective way to appeal the admissibility of pervious sexual history or privileged conversation with their therapist. Errors in finding this evidence to be admissible destroys cases and re-victimizes survivors. This amendment would allow military sexual assault victims to appeal a judge’s ordering the disclosure of sensitive and confidential psychotherapy records and previous sexual history. Victims of military sexual assault will have the right to interlocutory appeal to a higher court with more experience and expertise on the proper admissibility standards of Military Rule of Evidence 513 (psychotherapist-patient privilege) and MRE 412 (rape shield) rulings, in line with the rights of civilian victims under the Crime Victims Rights Act.18 USC 3771(d)(3).

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“Our soldiers deserve the same privacy rights that ordinary citizens take for granted. Military judge’s too often inappropriately order these very private conversations to be revealed without good cause which destroys cases and re-victimizes those brave enough to come forward.”

 

Psychotherapist -patient privilege modifications

This amendment aligns Military Rule of Evidence 513 (psychotherapist-patient privilege) with those under the attorney-client, penitent-clergy, and spousal privileges. Thirteen states have conformed their psycho-therapist-patient privilege to the model of attorney-client privilege. Unlike MRE 502 (attorney-client privilege) and 503 (communications to clergy), MRE 513’s 8th exception states that conversations between a therapist and an individual may be admissible if it is constitutionally required. 

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“Judges regularly abuse this exception to let in confidential communications between victims of sexual assault and their therapists. The result has been a chilling effect on victims seeking professional help for their trauma and coming forward with a report of sexual assault. Protecting these communications will give survivors greater confidence in seeking help and coming forward to report.”     

 

Personality and adjustment disorder review and correction

This amendment requires the DOD’s Inspector General review personality disorder designations that were made following an unrestricted report of sexual assault and whether all the relevant policies and procedures were followed and whether service records should be adjusted. The personality disorder designation often is used as a tool to retaliate against survivors for coming forward.

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“Survivors are routinely pinned with having personality disorders after reporting they were raped or sexually assaulted. It is a tool used to end their careers and hurts their abilities to survive after leaving military life. This investigation will give us the ammunition we need to finally correct the service records of so many service members that re-victimized by their superiors and unjustly forced out of the military.  

 

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Congresswoman Jackie Speier is proud to represent California’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties. She is a senior member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). In her role on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Congresswoman is a ranking member on the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements and serves on the Subcommittee on National Security. She serves on the Readiness Subcommittee and the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on HASC and is a member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Congresswoman Speier was appointed to serve as a Senior Whip for the Democratic caucus in the 113th Congress.