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Capitol Briefs: Hawley teams up with Gillibrand to improve military response to sexual assault

  

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has teamed up with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to tackle just how the U.S military responds to sexual assault complaints.

The bill tasks the Department of Defense (DOD) with laying the groundwork for establishing a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) military operational specialty (MOS) in a report to Congress. The report should address recommendations for the position’s requirements, ideas for incentives, possible limitations on the length of time one can serve in the position, and more. 

“America’s service members make untold sacrifices on our nation’s behalf, and it is our responsibility to ensure those who need support can get it,” Hawley said in a statement. “This legislation would aid the Department of Defense in identifying next steps to professionalize the role of Sexual Assault Response Coordinator throughout all branches of the military — a role that requires adequate training, resources, and support to provide service members with the best care possible.” 

“I’m proud to co-lead this bipartisan legislation as we work to eradicate the scourge of sexual assault in our military,” Gillibrand said. 

The legislation comes on the heels of a Fort Hood Independent Review Committee report that highlighted the lack of training and resources available for military sexual assault victims. The report was commissioned following the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillén; she had reported instances of sexual harassment before being killed last year. 

  • Aside from Hawley and Gillibrand, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin of Maryland, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, and Joni Ernst of Iowa co-sponsored the bipartisan legislation.
  • Hawley and Gillibrand are a unique pair to champion the legislation; Hawley, a Republican, is a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump and former Missouri attorney general. Gillibrand is a Democratic New York senator who launched a 2020 presidential bid. 
  • Gillibrand has long been a champion for those hoping to see changes in how the military and college campuses handle complaints of sexual violence. When it comes to the military specifically, Gillibrand has pushed for legislation meant to help victims since 2013.
  • Gillibrand stressed the need to professionalize every part of the military justice system, particularly SARCs, “to combat the epidemic of sexual assault in the military.”
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