Congressman Patrick Meehan (PA-07) today applauded House passage of the annual defense policy bill which includes several meaningful provisions to deal with the dramatic rise in sexual assault in the military.
"Victims of sexual assault should never have to fear their attackers will not be brought to justice," said Rep. Meehan, "Nor should victims of sexual assault should have to salute their attacker. I applaud my colleagues for joining me in standing up for victims and strengthening protections for them within our military judicial system. Today's vote is an important step forward in the effort to combat this crisis."
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) today passed on a broadly bipartisan 315-108 vote. The legislation removes a provision of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that allows a senior military officer that convenes a courtmartial -- known as the "convening authority" -- to reduce or dismiss a guilty verdict. Recently, an Air Force officer in Italy convicted of sexual assault and discharged was reinstated to active duty after the convening authority unilaterally dismissed the guilty verdict.
Earlier this year, Meehan co-introduced H.R. 1079, the Military Judicial Reform Act, which removes the "convening authority" provision from the UCMJ.
"Sexual assault victims deserve better than to go through the anguish and stress of a trial and then, without any justification, see their attacker released and reinstated. This authority has a chilling effect on sexual assault victims and I'm pleased the House has acted to remove it," said Meehan.
The legislation passed today includes several additional measures to combat sexual assault in the military, including the establishment of minimum sentencing guidelines, allowing victims of sexual assault to apply for a transfer, and allowing alleged perpetrators to be removed from their units during adjudication so that victims are not required to interact with them. It adds rape, sexual assault or other sexual misconduct to the protected communications of service members.
Last month, Meehan hosted a discussion with victims, advocates and representatives from the Philadelphia V.A. about the alarming rise in sexual assault in the military. Meehan spoke about his work to halt the practice of allowing commanders to overturn jury verdicts in a Philadelphia inquirer oped entitled "End court-martial loophole."