US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced four initiatives Wednesday designed to aid victims and strengthen prosecution of military sexual assault cases. "First, I've directed the establishment of a sexual assault advocate certification programme, which will require our sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates to obtain a credential aligned with national standards," Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon.
"This will help ensure the victims of sexual assault receive the best care from properly trained...professionals who can provide crucial assistance from the moment an assault is committed." The secretary said he also has directed the authorities concerned to expand assault victim support to include military spouses and adult military dependents, who can now file confidential reports and receive the services of a victim advocate and a sexual assault response coordinator, reported Xinhua.
The third approach increases training funds for investigators and judge advocates, "because sexual assault cases are some of the toughest cases to investigate and prosecute", he said. Officials said the funding increase is $9.3 million over five years. Panetta said his fourth current effort against sexual assault in the military focuses on prevention and leader training.
A total of 3,191 sexual assaults were reported in the military last year, according to the secretary. But because historically only a fraction of such crimes are reported, the true incidence of sexual assault likely approaches 19,000, he added.