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.
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.
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
you get the feeling ensuring the safety of women soldiers within the ranks
isn’t much of a priority?
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
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:
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?
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
, 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.
independent OVA would provide services to all services members regardless of
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.
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.
no reason to believe that by placing the OVA under the FAP the outstanding
problems in these areas will be aggressively and effectively addressed.
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