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The People's Voice for Family Peace


ADDRESSING RAPE IN THE RANKS STILL
NOT A PRIORITY


This spring, a scathing Department of Defense report revealed that more than 1000 women soldiers reported being sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers within the past year, including 118 women serving in Iraq and other combat zones.  In response, legislators introduced a bill to authorize $10 million for the formation of an independent Office of the Victims' Advocate (OVA) that would confidentially address the needs of victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse within the military.  But instead of taking up that legislation, the House Ways and Means Committee proposed a $3 million earmark out of the $417.5 billion Defense Appropriations bill to fund the OVA.  By the time the appropriations bill went through Congress they had whittled the OVA allotment down to $1.8 million – a mere 0.0004% of the overall military budget.  

Next, at the end of September, the Department of Defense held a closed-door, confidential conference on rape in the ranks that did not include key legislators or key sexual assault advocates. 

Now, as the 2005 Defense Authorization bill heads toward conference committee, the OVA’s authority is again being undermined.  Instead of the OVA existing as a top ranking independent office in direct communication with the Secretary of Defense - as was intended by the original earmark - Congress, under pressure from the Department of Defense, is now considering making OVA part of the Family Advocacy Programs (FAP). The FAP answers to the Director of the Office of Family Policy, who answers to the Assistant Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, who answers to the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, who answers to the Assistant Secretary for Force Management who answers to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who answers to the Secretary of Defense.  

Do you get the feeling ensuring the safety of women soldiers within the ranks isn’t much of a priority?   

You can help!  Enter your zip code to send a message to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, your legislators and the President demanding that the Office of the Victims' Advocate remain an independent office as was intended in the original legislation.  

 
        
Enter your ZIP code
  (Preview)

It is crucial that the Office of the Victims' Advocate be established as an independent office rather than as a branch of the Family Advocacy Programs (FAP). 

 The OVA, as defined in the $1.8 million appropriations bill would “initiate a program to standardize response protocols among the military services that ensure access to treatment services, reduce bureaucratic hurdles for victims and survivors, and remove barriers to reporting these types of violence cases.”

 Specifically, an independent OVA is critical for the following reasons:

·            The OVA would ensure victims privacy and confidentiality – factors that are vital to providing services and victim safety.  


In contrast, the FAP requires record keeping and reporting up the chain of command.  Such reporting places lives at risk: Imagine a woman who goes to the FAP for counseling regarding domestic violence or sexual assault. The FAP, as required, tells the offender’s commanding officer.  The CO confronts the offender.  What do you think happens to the woman that night?

 

·            A independent OVA would ensure timely, informed response including crisis and emergency services by skilled personnel.  


In contrast, on 2 separate occasions in 2002, distressed soldiers home after deployment in
Afghanistan , called the FAP about “family problems.”  In both instances, the servicemen were told there were no appointments and they couldn’t be seen right away.  Both men subsequently killed their wives and then themselves.

 

·            An independent OVA would provide services to all services members regardless of marital status  


In contrast, the FAP is only authorized to provide services to married service members and their families.  This would mean that the majority of sexual assault victims and dating violence victims would still not have any place to turn for support.  

Victims’ advocate programs have been in existence for 10 years as part of FAP, but the Department has failed to take the responsibility to see that these programs are fully operational.  The Air Force has never implemented its victims’ advocacy program; the Army began implementation only in 1998-99.   

There is no reason to believe that by placing the OVA under the FAP the outstanding problems in these areas will be aggressively and effectively addressed.   

VICTIMS deserve better!
Enter your zip code to send a message to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, your legislators and the President demanding that the Office of the Victims' Advocate remain an independent office as was intended in the original legislation.     

 
        
Enter your ZIP code
  (Preview)





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