The Department of Defense is taking a multi-pronged approach to combatting sexual assault in the military. One initiative – the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military – is reaching out to service members, Veterans, experts and survivors to get it right.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III made it clear that the Defense Department will put “all options on the table” to prevent sexual assault and harassment in the military. In his first order to the force, he doubled-down on the department’s commitment.

“Every member of the total force deserves a workplace free of sexual assault and harassment and personal fear. We must commit ourselves to eliminating these attacks on our own people,” Austin wrote in the memo. “I know you have worked this problem for many years. We simply must admit the hard truth: We must do more. All of us.”

Soon after, he directed several immediate actions, including the establishment the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military (IRC) to inform bold action to prevent sexual assault and harassment in the ranks.

The commission is led by former White House advisor on violence against women and a long-term advocate for survivors of gender violence, Lynn Rosenthal. The commission convened March 24 to construct recommendations on four priority issues including accountability; prevention; climate and culture; and victim care and support. Through a multi-stakeholder, cross-disciplinary approach, the IRC is developing recommendations to the defense secretary that will generate the best outcomes to instill confidence in the military’s handling of sexual assault and harassment cases. To best do that, the IRC is listening. They are listening to military service members. They are listening to military Veterans. They are listening to medical, legal and prevention experts. They are listening to survivors.

“One of the hardest things to hear when you listen to survivors talk is how hostility was conveyed by their attackers… that [the] approach to the victim was ‘You don’t belong here, you don’t belong in this military. No one will believe you if you talk about what happened, and you will be blamed,’” Rosenthal said. “This commission says to that service member – You do belong in this military. You belong. And it’s our job to make this climate safe for you to be here.”

To gather feedback, the IRC is holding discussion groups at military installations around the world, as well as online. Survivors, Veterans, active duty service members and family members are also invited to anonymously share their experiences regarding sexual assault and harassment through Safe Help’s online feedback form. Responses will inform recommendations for DOD policy and program updates.

The IRC’s recommendations will be compiled, deliberated and referred by the IRC Chair and twelve subject matter experts, including current and retired military members. This deliberative body is supported by more than 50 consultative working group and support group members to provide a holistic view with viable recommendations to drive DOD’s goal of preventing sexual misconduct. Recommendations will be provided to the defense secretary in late June.

Navy Cmdr. Candice Tresch is a spokesperson for the Defense Department.

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Published on May. 5, 2021

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  1. Gloria Deleon May 12, 2021 at 7:00 pm

    Hello friend, my name is Gloria and I am a women’s army Corp veteran a victim of sexual assault while I served at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center during the Vietnam war era. These days I serve as a DAV certified service officer and have experience with survivors of MST and helping them with their claims. I would really like to have a telephone visit with you because I believe that the way the word evidence has been presented to you may have distorted your efforts. So I look forward to hearing from you and we can talk about this if you like. Until then take care.

  2. Denise walker May 12, 2021 at 12:32 pm

    When you file a claim for sexual assault .The VA wants you to prove to them that you have assaulted . How stupid is that , they letters people you told etc . Don’t they understand when a woman get assaulted it’s hard to open up to anyone . Also very difficult that even think about it .So that should let you know the military don’t give a Dam if you were sexually assaulted.So for female and also male soldiers if you are sexually assaulted ask the accuser to stop and allow you take pictures , and ask them do they have a pin to write a letter telling the military that you are in the process of being raped . Also make sure you let all your friends know and give them copies , so when you decide to file a claim , then the VA will almost believe you !!

  3. sandra young May 11, 2021 at 12:34 pm

    Veterans who rape other veterans should be subject to punishment under the law as everyone else is, meaning the law as everyone else. Not military law but the law of the nation where ever he is. I was raped and to this day the man who did it was not punished because it was military bullsht and white racism leading the show. He has been free and I have been in mental health treatment for the last ten years because the military ignored me and then threw me out of the military. I fought for years to be recognized and it was only in the 1996 that the military was even willing to hear me out. I was given benefits and I went to school all twenty years later and I had a witness who came forward. Despite how it turned out this dog has never been punished and I wonder day and night who were his other victims and if they were all military and what happened to them. I am deeply grateful that the military finally listened to me but it took a long hard fight. When I went to the civilian police they accompanied back to the military base and the military refused them admission and worse treated me like dirt. So I was alone and still regret not being able to bring this dog to trial and see him sent to prison but rather he put on his military uniform as an officer and raised his head above suspicion.

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