To care for victims, it requires a specially trained lawyer to be provided; allows victims to request a permanent change of their duty location or a unit transfer; and allows commanders to remove or reassign alleged perpetrators.
These are essential steps. But they are only first steps. The decision regarding whether and how to prosecute these crimes must be removed from the chain of command and put in the hands of trained prosecutors.
It is utterly unacceptable that roughly 87 percent of assaults went unreported in 2012 and 62 percent of service members who reported an assault believed they faced retaliation for reporting the crime. This cannot continue.
I am proud of the significant steps that have been taken this week, but we as a country must ensure that all those who serve our nation are safe within their own ranks. Anything less than immediate, effective, and decisive action to end the epidemic of sexual violence in our Armed Forces would be a breach of faith with our men and women in uniform.
Dave Loebsack represents Iowa’s Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives. This column originally ran in the June 18 Iowa City Press-Citizen.