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New York Daily News - Department of Defense Airing Video Messages in Effort to Fight Sexual Assaults on Soldiers

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By Joseph Straw and Heidi Evans

The Department of Defense ramped up its effort to fight sexual assaults on soldiers by their comrades, airing three video messages to the troops Thursday.
In one of three spots featured by the Pentagon Channel and posted to YouTube, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said sexual assault crimes "deeply scar our profession . . . strike at the heart of our ranks and undermine the readiness of our force."

Another online video tells troops and brass of new reporting policies and protections for victims of assault, including getting a quick transfer away from a perpetrator, who is often a superior.

The push comes on the heels of the Daily News series that revealed a shocking 19,000 of sexual attacks occurred last year -- including roughly 10,000 attacks on men. Three generations of women -- ranging in age from 27 to 77, said their lives were ruined by rapes and assaults as they tried to serve their country.

The videos are "a way for us to underscore this serious commitment to changing the culture," said Cynthia Smith, a spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

The military has run PSAs over the years, but rapes, sexual assaults and harassment have persisted. Thursday's spots also aired in June.

Spots on the Pentagon Channel target all 1.4 million active duty servicemen and women as well as 1.2 million members of the National Guard and Reserve.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is pressing for several reforms to be made into law when Congress returns next week, hailed the video spots but said that way more needs to be done.

"Secretary Panetta has taken important steps and now Congress must act to ensure they are codified into law this year," said Gillibrand.

"We appreciate the drumbeat of leadership coming across the highest military chain of command. Although more needs to be done to ensure that there is no tolerance for sexual assault, and there is appropriate prevention, punishment and services for victims, we are moving in the right direction."

But Dempsey's remarks drew mixed reviews from a key member of the armed service committee, Rep. Jackie Speier, (D-Calif.), who has proposed taking the prosecution of sexual predators out of the sole hands of the insular military.

"Gen. Dempsey rightly explains that sexual assault crimes are a serious problem and claims that it is time for a renewed commitment to ending sexual assaults, but he never talks about the consequences or punishment a perpetrator will face, nor does he offer solutions to the problem," said Speier. "Talking about the epidemic of rape in sexual assault in the military won't end it; more courts martial and convictions will."

Sylvia Ross-Epstein, a 77-year-old veteran from Manhattan who was drugged and raped in 1955 at 19 and became pregnant, agreed.

"These rapists should be put on sex offender lists and go to trial, just like men on the outside," she said.


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