On Wednesday, Representatives Mike Turner (R-OH) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) introduced the Defense STRONG (Sexual Trauma Response, Oversight and Good Governance) Act that would increase the legal rights and protections for service members who have experienced sexual assault during their military service. The bill would provide victims with the right to legal counsel and would allow them to relocate to another military base. Moreover, the bill would require increased training for troops and would ensure the confidentiality for service members who choose to speak with advocates.
The Pentagon’s “Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military” indicated that approximately 3,000 women experienced sexual assault in fiscal year 2008, which is a 9 percent increase from the previous year. For women in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rate of sexual assaults by US military personnel increased by 25 percent.
According to a 2003 study by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, at least one-third of all women veterans have experienced rape or sexual assault by fellow US military members frequently of higher rank during their service, and thirty percent of military women experience domestic violence. Moreover, rape occurs in the military nearly twice as often as in the civilian world.
The STRONG Act was proposed during the 111th session of Congress in May 2010 but did not pass. Although it is a bipartisan bill, advocates of the bill are concerned that it will not be supported by a Republican-majority House.