The National Defense Authorization Act Fails To Reform The Military’s Sexual Assault Problem

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley

The Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, released May 5 by the House Armed Services Committee, includes assurances and provisions for sexual assault victims.

The NDAA does not include a measure championed by several high-profile female lawmakers that would remove authority to convene courts-martial in cases of sexual assault from senior commanders or, apparently, support for almost every other item championed by the Pentagon this budget cycle.

Setting aside the question of how the Department of Defense can be trusted with its own justice system, but can't be relied upon to accurately estimate the necessary requirements for real estate, aircraft, and vessels, or the health of its own service members, this decision promises to be of close interest as the Senate Armed Services Committee returns its own NDAA markup later in May.

And that's what this is – a decision, not a resolution.

The final vote was unsurprising; an initial assessment released in January by the Response Systems Panel offers a strong refutation of the reasoning behind the measure, including the fact that military investigations of sexual assault take place outside of the chain of command, and the decision to convene takes place at a level of command that typically precludes personal acquaintance between the decision maker and the victim and/or subject.

The House NDAA includes several actions that would mitigate the major obstacles victims of sexual assault face. At the same time, it falls far short of offering a comprehensive solution to the problem of sexual assault in the military.

In order to reach this future solution, military personnel and civilians must design and implement change at both the institutional and individual level, as well as answer valid criticisms leveled by lawmakers and victims' advocates who supported the measure.

This would be easier if a successful model of treating sexual assault on any level existed. Instead, the concerns regarding military sexual trauma echo in the White House's newfound focus on campus sexual assault. As with the early stages of the military's response to the problem of sexual assault within its ranks, colleges and universities now must address the parallel lines of popular activism, external pressure, news media support, empowerment of victims to come forward and, hopefully soon, an internal, institutional decision to move toward a solution.

While the civilian criminal justice systems offers a wealth of best practices, both at the federal and state levels, it also offers its own series of cautionary tales, from a judge sentencing a rapist to do community service at a rape crisis center to a federal investigation necessitated by allegations of egregious neglect in local rape investigations.

The reactions of subjects also shed light on the problems faced by the criminal justice system, civilian or military, when attempting to prevent rape. In a highly publicized case involving two football players accused of rape, one of the player's quoted reactions, upon delivery of the guilty verdict, was regret that the event had been memorialized on social media.

When teaching criminal justice to undergraduates, I often used a model of the criminal justice system that included citizens, police, courts, corrections, and enveloping and connecting each of these points on the model with the news media. The actions and reactions of news coverage surrounding cases of alleged rape and sexual assault may contribute to the larger problem, although the reactions of the blogosphere often move quickly to condemn what are increasingly seen as outdated, victim-blaming reactions.

Broad simple solutions cannot be mandated. Simple does not work because the problem is complex. Solutions cannot be broad, because cases are unique. And lastly, solutions cannot simply be mandated, because implementing policy solutions without doing the research is a path to either solving the wrong problem or making the problem worse.

My hope is that this decision will not be seen as a setback, a reason for advocates to lose hope, or an indication that the system is just fine the way it is. The real resolution probably won't be the result of a flashy fight across the headlines. It will happen – is happening – when the institution signals a change, when actual research into law enforcement, evidence-based practices is used to inform the institutional response, and when systems are put in place to gain the buy-in necessary to begin implementing change at the individual level.

Systems do not change without buy-in from all members of the institution – just ask a command team that has lost the trust of its troops. Sexual assault is part of a larger socio-cultural problem, and in order to solve it, all stakeholders must understand how long the road is, and how many lanes there are to travel. Therefore, the question remains: If this decision is not the final solution, then what are we doing to get there?

Rachel A. Brune is a former Army journalist and a current news junkie. She resides in North Carolina with her husband, two dogs, and a reliable Internet connection.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, DOD, or the U.S. government.

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less

A low-flying C-17 gave Nashville residents a fright on Friday when the aircraft made several unannounced passes over the city's bustling downtown.

Read More Show Less
George W. Bush/Instagram

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Former President George W. Bush is calling for an end to the partial government shutdown, which is about to hit the one-month mark and is currently the longest shutdown in US history.

In an appeal made on Instagram, the 43rd president called on "leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown." The caption was posted with an image of him and former First Lady Laura Bush giving pizza to their Secret Service detail.

Read More Show Less
Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested on Jan. 29, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Wilmington Police Department, North Carolina.)

A special operations Marine is due in court on March 7 after being arrested last year for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Task & Purpose has learned.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested and charged with assault inflicting serious injury on July 29, 2018, according to Jennifer Dandron, a spokeswoman for police in Wilmington, North Carolina. Evans is currently assigned as a Critical Skills Operator with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to the Marine Corps Personnel Locator.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Elyse Ping Medvigy conducts a call-for-fire during an artillery shoot south of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2014. Medvigy, a fire support officer assigned to the 4th Infantry Division's Company D, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is the first female company fire support officer to serve in an infantry brigade combat team supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston (Photo by U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)

Following Trump's inauguration, some supporters of ground combat integration assumed he would quickly move to reinstate a ban on women in jobs like the infantry. When this did not happen, advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief, and hundreds of qualified women charted a course in history by entering the newly opened occupational fields.

So earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal published an editorial against women in ground combat by conservative political commentator Heather Mac Donald, the inclination of many ground combat integration supporters was to dismiss it outright. But given Trump's proclivity to make knee jerk policy decisions in response to falling approval ratings and the court's tradition of deference to the military when it comes to policies affecting good order and discipline, it would be unwise to assume the 2016 lifting of the ban on women in ground combat is a done deal.

Read More Show Less