H.R. 840, originally introduced by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), is a bill that would aim to reduce domestic and sexually-based violence among members of our Armed Forces and their family members and partners. If the need for support services arises, the bill would help create a stronger protective service for victims, and hold commands more accountable for enforcing protective orders, pursuing prosecution against perpetrators, and ensuring that there is no recourse taken against those who come forward to report crimes against them.
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Photo Credit: U.S. Army
H.R. 840, originally introduced by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), is a bill that would aim to reduce domestic and sexually-based violence among members of our Armed Forces, their family members and partners by creating and enhancing awareness and deterrence programs. It would also lay the groundwork for the strengthening of victims services, family advocacy programs, and stronger provisions for the prosecution of assailants.
Domestic and Sexually-Based Violence disrupts mission readiness, breaks up unit cohesion, and is not conducive to a proper, safe working environment. This is nothing to speak of the mental and physical health of the victims of the crimes perpetrated by the assailants.
Many times these crimes are the result of stress caused by long deployment, poor medical care and a lack of response services. This does not excuse this violence, but demonstrates the urgent need for this bill at the end of a decade of two wars. This bill would strive to build a stronger support system for both the members of the Armed Services who may be potential perpetrators but who are simply suffering from unmet needs before they commit crimes, and better family and partner awareness and support teams to protect everyone.
The summary of the bill:
Military Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Act - Establishes in the Department of Defense (DOD) an Office of the Victims' Advocate to facilitate access to services for victims of domestic or family violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the military. Directs the Secretary of Defense, acting through the Director of the Office, to require DOD policies for victim assistance, family advocacy, and equal opportunity programs to provide for a victims' advocates program within each military department.
Authorizes the Secretary to award contracts to: (1) support DOD crisis intervention services for victims of such violence; and (2) provide training on prevention of such violence.
Prohibits any person from restricting a member of the Armed Forces in communicating with the Office or from taking or withholding a personnel action in retaliation for making such a communication.
Provides for: (1) employment of a sexual assault nurse examiner, a psychiatrist, and a complimentary clinical team at each DOD military treatment facility; and (2) DOD community level programs and shelter services for active duty members and their families who are victims of such violence shelter .
Specifies the rights of victims of such violence reported to a military law enforcement agency.
Directs a military commanding officer who receives a qualifying complaint alleging such violence to investigate it and report.
Specifies circumstances under which military law enforcement officers shall arrest a person for committing domestic violence.
Establishes a Director of Special Investigations in DOD to review investigations of allegations of such violence and refer cases for prosecution.
Amends the Uniform Code of Military Justice to: (1) include as "aggravated assault" and specify penalty limits for an assault involving domestic or family violence; and (2) provide for court-martial punishment of violations of no contact or protective orders.
Authorizes the Secretary to: (1) contract for treatment services for members of the Armed Forces who have committed such violence; and (2) ensure that sex offender treatment providers in the contracted program meet the state licensing or certification standards.
Requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to: (1) ensure that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) primary care providers receive training in the screening and referral of veterans who have suffered military sexual trauma; and (2) conduct related pilot programs.
Prohibits the Secretary of the military department concerned from approving a financial award or a promotion for an officer or employee who has been convicted of or disciplined for committing such violence.
Directs the Secretary to study: (1) the prevalence and nature of such violence, of intimate partner violence, and of child maltreatment, abuse, suicide, and homicide in the Armed Forces; and (2) military procedures after an incident is reported.
The bill would ensure that families and partners as well as service members have access to training, services, and support to recognize and help prevent domestic and sexual assault. If the need for support services arises, the bill would help create a stronger protective service for victims, and hold commands more accountable for enforcing protective orders, pursuing prosecution against perpetrators, and ensuring that there is no recourse taken against those who come forward to report crimes against them.
I urge you, in your capacity as a lawmaker, to support and promulgate this bill, recognizing the need for better services for military members, their families, and their partners, both overseas and at home in the U.S.
Thank you for your time.
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