U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3) today introduced legislation to address the continuing problem of sexual assault in the military by requiring the armed services to provide professionally trained sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) to assist in investigations and provide specialized medical attention and care to victims. Rep. Lipinski's bill, The SANE Deployment Act, comes in the wake of a Department of Defense report last week showing that military sexual assaults and related crimes have risen 35 percent in the last two years.
"I have been greatly disturbed by recent reports that show sexual assaults in the military are increasing and that investigation and punishment in these cases are often lacking. Clearly, the current system in place to deal with these horrible crimes isn't working and must be changed," Rep. Lipinski said. "The SANE Deployment Act will help give victims more confidence to come forward knowing their cases will be handled with greater professionalism and sensitivity."
Rep. Lipinski's legislation would require the Department of Defense to train at least one sexual assault nurse examinerfor each Army brigade, and for equivalent-sized units in the other branches. The SANE would be available to collect evidence during the critical early stages of any sexual assault investigation, while also providing physical and mental care specialized for victims subjected to sexual assault. The position would be filled by a trained nurse who completes 40 hours of training on sexual assault forensics and how to best care for victims of sex crimes. The congressman's bill allows existing military nurses to undergo the training so no extra personnel would need to be added.
Last week, the Department of Defense estimated that 26,000 military men and women last year experienced unwanted sexual contact, an increase from 19,300 in 2010. While there were 3,374 reports of sexual assaults last year, compared with 3,192 in 2011, in both years less than 10 percent ended with conviction at court martial proceedings. The majority of cases resulted in inadequate administrative punishments or were dismissed altogether. Congressman Lipinski's legislation would allow for better evidence collection to help with more effective prosecutions that can result in fitting punishments.
Joining Rep. Lipinski in introducing this legislation are Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (NE-R), Vicky Hartzler (MO-R) and Jackie Speier (CA-D). Reps. Speier and Hartzler are members of the House Armed Services Committee. Rep. Speier has been a leader on legislative efforts to address the growing sexual assault issues faced by the Department of Defense.
"We have the greatest military in the world, but we must do everything we can to ensure that all of our men and women in the armed forces know they can carry out their responsibilities confidently and without fear of assault from their own fellow service members," Rep. Lipinski said. "The SANE Deployment Act is an important step toward empowering the victims of these crimes, punishing the perpetrators and achieving the overall goal of eliminating military sexual assaults altogether. I am hopeful that this common-sense legislation will be passed on its own or added to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill this summer."