Legislation Assembly Democrats Cleopatra Tucker, Pamela Lampitt and Joseph Danielsen sponsored to push Washington to combat sexual assault in the military was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.
The legislation (ACR-13) would urge Congress to enact reforms addressing sexual harassment and assault in the United States Armed Forces.
“In addition to causing continued trauma for sexual assault survivors in the armed forces, having anything less than an aggressive, zero tolerance stance on sexual assault in the military erodes trust and deters people from enlisting, which is a national security concern,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “A culture of sexual harassment and assault in the military threatens to deteriorate the sense of cohesion and respect that service members rely on in the performance of their duties. Congress must take action to eradicate this culture.”
“Several members of Congress have spoken out against the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in the military and introduced bills to combat this scourge, but if the legislation isn’t enacted, the toxic culture that fostered the rise in military sexual assault will not change,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington), chair of the Assembly Women and Children Committee. “Whether it happens in the civilian world or in the military, sexual assault is a serious crime, and it always ought to be regarded as such.”
“The fact that Americans who volunteered to serve in the greatest military in the world have been sexually assaulted by their fellow men and women in uniform, who then face no consequence, is an utter disgrace,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset), who served as a reservist in the U.S. Army. “Our nation can – and must – do better in preventing and responding to sexual assault in the military.”
Several bills have been introduced in Congress to address the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in the military and to reform the broken system of military justice, which fails to handle cases equitably and fairly. For example, various bills seek to improve victims’ services, extend victims’ rights, modify the authority of commanders with respect to case prosecutions and convictions, professionalize the military justice system, mandate certain punishments for those convicted of specific sex crimes and require the retention of sexual assault reports and better data collection.
In fiscal year 2012, an estimated 26,000 service members experienced rape or unwanted sexual contact compared to 19,000 in 2010, according to the FY 2012 Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.
The measure was advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, of which Tucker is chair.