Washington, D.C. – In another effort to stop sexual assault in the military, the House of Representatives has passed H.R. 1864, the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, by a vote of 423-0. This bill would strengthen military whistleblower protection laws to clarify that victims of sexual crimes are protected from punishment for reporting sexual assaults. Rep. Kristi Noem cosponsored this legislation and continues to lead efforts in the House to bring an end to sexual assault in the Armed Forces.
“I was proud to cosponsor this legislation and am pleased that it passed the House with such strong bipartisan support. Research has demonstrated that only 14 percent of victims report sexual assault. We must do more to encourage victims to come forward without fear of retaliation,” said Rep. Noem. “I will continue to work with my colleagues in addressing sexual assault within ranks so we can finally say that sexual assault ends now.”
This legislation requires an Inspector General investigation into allegations of retaliatory personnel actions taken against victims who have reported alleged instances of rape, sexual assault or other forms of sexual misconduct in the military.
Rep. Noem previously championed three main sexual assault prevention provisions in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, all of which were included in the final version which passed on June 14th. They include:
• Improved Investigation of Sex-Related Offenses. Rep. Noem advocates a policy change that would direct the Secretary of Defense to standardize recommendations by military criminal investigative organizations as to whether a sex-related offense is founded or unfounded. This change would aim to give military commanders better information in the form of an expert opinion when proceeding with prosecuting sexual assault crimes.
• Qualifications for Sexual Assault Prevention/Support Personnel. Rep. Noem believes the Secretary of Defense should be required to establish selection criteria for individuals in sexual assault prevention related positions. Currently, there are not any specific qualifications for these positions. Changes in this specific area are all the more important in light of recently publicized instances of military personnel in sexual assault prevention/support positions being accused of a sexual offenses themselves.
• Basic Training Standards for Sexual Assault. Rep. Noem believes the Department of Defense should be directed to develop uniform training plans and materials for sexual assault prevention. Currently the individual branches of the military do their own training plans for sexual assault, highlighting the need for consistency among all branches. Rep. Noem supports a basic bar for training across all branches.