Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Sexual assaults in the military are on the rise. This bill would authorize Congress to intervene
WASHINGTON — Congress could intervene in legal cases on behalf of military members who have been sexually assaulted under a new bill co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Brian Mast.
The Florida Republican in late April introduced "Harmony's Law," named after his constituent Harmony Allen, who was raped by an instructor just three months after joining in the U.S. Air Force in 2000.
The bill takes steps to remedy the impact of a U.S. military appeals court ruling last year that could overturn sexual assaults occurring before 2006 and prosecuted after a new five-year statute of limitations expired, lawmakers say.
But the bill proposed by Mast does not eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual assault in the military.
Instead the bill reads: "It is the sense of Congress that the passage of time should not bar the prosecution of rape or sexual assault under the Uniform Code of Military Justice."
The bill simply authorizes the Office of General Counsel of the House of Representatives to file an amicus brief in any case in which U.S. v. Mangahas is invoked in a defendant's appeal.
The ruling in U.S. v. Mangahas reversed a legal precedent, which held that sexual assault in the military has no statute of limitations. The ruling came in February 2018, just as the #MeToo movement was encouraging more women to report sexual assaults they may have hesitated to report for years for fear of retaliation.
Allen's assailant was found guilty in 2017 and sentenced to more than 16 years in prison. That sentence was overturned under the new ruling, Treasure Coast Newspapers reported.
The bill comes as members of the military have reported a spike in sexual assaults, especially young women, according to a confidential survey released by the Pentagon in February 2019.
More than six percent of active duty women say they have experienced a sexual assault in the past year — the highest rate since 2006, when the Pentagon first instituted policies to encourage greater reporting.
Women from the ages of 17 to 24 were especially vulnerable. And only a third of respondents who experienced sexual assault reported it, the survey indicated.
Allen said she believes the spike is related to the new five-year statute of limitations in some sexual assault cases in an interview with CNN.
"The stats are back up. The conviction rate is back down. And I'm like, yeah, I wonder why," Allen said.
Mast served in the Army for a decade, and briefly volunteered with the Israeli Defense Force.
Other cosponsors of the legislation include both Democrats and Republicans: Reps. Haley Stevens of Michigan, Bill Posey of Florida, Gus Bilirakis of Florida, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Darren Soto of Florida, Rep. Gil Cisneros of California, Rep. Annie Kuster of New Hampshire, Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, and Rep. Val Demings of Florida.
©2019 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
SEE ALSO: 'Continuum Of Harm': The Military Has Been Fighting Sexual Assault In Its Ranks For Decades, But Women Say It's Still Happening
WATCH NEXT: Sen. Martha McSally Says She Was Raped By A Superior Officer During Air Force Service
NASA is reportedly investigating one of its astronauts in a case that appears to involve the first allegations of criminal activity from space.
Hackers could have breached US bioterrorism defenses for years, records show. We'll never know if they did
The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation's bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade, according to government documents reviewed by The Los Angeles Times.
The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack.
The information — housed on a dot-org website run by a private contractor — has been moved behind a secure federal government firewall, and the website was shut down in May. But Homeland Security officials acknowledge they do not know whether hackers ever gained access to the data.
The State Department doesn't really care if its human rights training for partner security forces is working or not
By law, the United States is required to promote "human rights and fundamental freedoms" when it trains foreign militaries. So it makes sense that if the U.S. government is going to spend billions on foreign security assistance every year, it should probably systematically track whether that human rights training is actually having an impact or not, right?
Apparently not. According to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office, both the Departments of Defense and State "have not assessed the effectiveness of human rights training for foreign security forces" — and while the Pentagon agreed to establish a process to do so, State simply can't be bothered.
A Kansas VA hospital police supervisor reported 'dangerous' deficiencies among his officers. Now he says he faced retaliation
The Kansas City VA Medical Center is still dealing with the fallout of a violent confrontation last year between one of its police officers and a patient, with the Kansas City Police Department launching a homicide investigation.
And now Topeka's VA hospital is dealing with an internal dispute between leaders of its Veterans Affairs police force that raises new questions about how the agency nationwide treats patients — and the officers who report misconduct by colleagues.
A New Mexico woman was charged Friday in the robbery and homicide of a Marine Corps veteran from Belen late last month after allegedly watching her boyfriend kill the man and torch his car to hide evidence.