Tuesday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) met with Air Force Major General Margaret H. Woodward to discuss the epidemic of sexual assault in our nation’s armed forces. In June, Maj. Gen. Woodward was named the Director of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office. In May, Senators Murray and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced the bipartisan Combating Military Sexual Assault Act to provide trained military lawyers, also known as Special Victims Counsels (SVCs), to victims of sexual assault in all service branches. This legislation has been included in the pending National Defense Authorization Act, which is expected to be considered by the full Senate in the coming months. The SVC program is based on a successful pilot program currently implemented in the Air Force.
“Our legislation to provide victims with a dedicated legal counsel absolutely gets to the heart of effectively addressing the tragic epidemic of sexual assault in our military,” said Senator Murray. “When our best and our brightest put on a uniform and join the United States Armed Forces, they do so with the understanding that they will sacrifice much in the name of defending our country and its people. However, it’s unconscionable to think that entertaining unwanted sexual contact from within the ranks is now part of that equation. Special Victims’ Counsels are a major step forward in reversing this awful trend and establish the necessary means for victims to take action against their attackers. It’s inexcusable for us to wait any longer to address this issue and I’m glad we have a willing partner in Major General Woodward to start taking meaningful action to do right by our nation’s heroes.”
In a statement endorsing the Murray-Ayotte SVC legislation, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said, “The Air Force Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) pilot program, while very new, has shown positive results and provides a robust support program for victims of sexual assault. Hundreds of victims have availed themselves of SVC services in the Air Force in just the past several months since it was implemented. Many of those victims who initially filed restricted reports of sexual assault decided to change their report to unrestricted, allowing full investigation of the offenses committed by their assailant. As the early reports have been so promising, I expressed in my May 20, 2013, letters to Senators Levin and Inhofe that the proposed SVC legislation had merit. I support providing victims of sexual assault this important resource.”